State resolution would support school prayer, 'Christian majority'

A proposed Missouri House resolution that supports prayer in school and recognizes a "Christian God" is generating a variety of opinions among Christians and non-Christians, but local legislators say it has no binding effect in the state.

The House resolution No. 13 states that "voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state." The resolution, sponsored by Rep. David Sater, R-Cassville, is not a bill and cannot become a law, said Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson. Many resolutions filed in the past have died or been withdrawn.

The Rev. Bob Towner doesn't understand why legislators would make such a statement.

"The whole thing is preposterous," said Towner, Christ Episcopal Church pastor. "This assumes all Christians think alike and that there is a majority position. The truth is we don't all think alike."

Lynwood Baptist Church's pastor, the Rev. Derek Staples applauds the House for taking a stand and believes Christians are continually being asked to remain silent out of respect for other religions.

"Because the church of Jesus Christ is very prominent in America, you cannot separate the church from the country," Staples said. "This resolution is not being forced on anyone."

The resolution continues to read, "as elected officials we should protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs while showing respect for those who object."

Dr. Hamner Hill, chairman of Southeast Missouri State University's Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religion, said he doesn't see anything that respects a minority's right in the resolution.

"I see nothing specifically about the Jewish tradition in it," he said. "Either this is more a feel-good statement with no force or clearly it's very unconstitutional under law."

Dr. Tahsin Khalid, a Muslim and professor at Southeast's Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education, said some suggestions in the resolution, such as prayer, could alienate minorities.

"I don't know why they use the word Christian," Khalid said, referring to the first line of the resolution which stated principles of a "Christian God" were used in the creation of the United States. "It's the same Almighty God."

Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, said he understands people are concerned with the resolution because it's misunderstood. Resolutions typically have no effect of law and serve as a statement or opinion by the Legislature, but not the entire Legislature.

"I am a Christian, and many of the legislators are Christian," Cooper said. "This resolution is simply the legislators acknowledging the great impact of Christianity in our country."

Missouri legislators oppose any attempt to ban any religion, Cooper said. "Once we lose track of our roots, we lose the moral standing to survive as a country," he said.

Lipke said he believes Rep. Sater wanted to recognize that the nation was founded on Christian principles.

"I'd like to shake the hand of the representative who submitted this," said Gary Slaubaugh, member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Chapel in Cape Girardeau. "The Constitution states that we have a freedom of religion. This resolution is simply recognizing this."

Slaubaugh doesn't think any religion is left out of the resolution. He said he's offended when prayer is taken out of public school and when the Ten Commandments are taken out of public places.

"We're trying to protect a small minority of people out there," he said. "As Christians we need to stand up and acknowledge the role of Christianity in our country."

While Khalid would not comment on the role Christianity may have played in the country, he said he had no problem with the Ten Commandments in public places.

"As a Muslim, I say go ahead and do it," Khalid said, adding Muslims believe in what the Ten Commandments say.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said he didn't know why the resolution was introduced and couldn't speak on its purpose.

Southeast Missourian writer Kyle W. Morrison contributed to this report.

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