KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Voters in the U.S. state of Missouri will decide on August 7 whether to approve a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to pray in public places.
Governor Jay Nixon signed a proclamation on Wednesday setting the election on the amendment, which Missouri legislators voted overwhelmingly last year to put on the ballot in 2012.
Had Nixon not signed the proclamation, the amendment would have automatically appeared on the November 6 general election ballot. A spokesman for Nixon declined to say whether his signing of the proclamation meant the governor supported the measure.
While the U.S. Constitution protects the right to pray in public places, supporters of the Missouri ballot issue want to clarify those rights. In House committee testimony last year, they said there is increasing ignorance about religious expression. Opponents testified that the amendment adds nothing to existing law and may invite litigation.
Under the amendment, public prayer would be allowed as long as it did not disturb the peace or disrupt a public assembly.
The amendment reaffirms that students can pray privately in public school, but it would not allow the schools to hold class prayers. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that school-initiated prayer amounted to establishing religion in public schools in violation of the Constitution.
Under the Missouri amendment, students could not “be compelled to perform or participate in any education assignments or presentations” that violate their religious beliefs.
The prayer amendment passed 126-30 in the Missouri House and 34-0 in the Senate. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans. Nixon is a Democrat and former attorney general.
Editing by Greg McCune and Mohammad Zargham