By Rebecca Townsend & Jim Eftink
JEFFERSON CITY, MO - The Missouri House has given first-round approval to proposed state constitutional amendment that would guarantee Missourians the right to express their religious beliefs in public places.
The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Mike McGhee, R-Odessa, says school children, among others, are being targeted for professing their religious beliefs.
McGhee cited instances where school children wearing crosses and carrying Bibles have been removed from classrooms.
McGhee's amendment specifies that the religious activities must be voluntary and subject to the same rules and regulations of all other forms of speech.
The amendment also affirms the right of elected public officials to be able to pray on public premises and have clergy in attendance at public meetings.
Opponents of the legislation say those rights are already covered by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The proposed amendment passed the first-round 131-31 vote. The amendment needs to pass one more vote before moving on to the Senate.