Porposed House resolution on Religion Irks Some Here  
By: Tim Townsend & Matt Franck (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Friday, March 3rd, 2006
www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/religion/story/0512B034CC655212862571270019240C?OpenDocument


Some religious leaders on Friday blasted a proposed Missouri House resolution that supports prayer in schools and
recognizes a "Christian God," saying legislators are pushing Christianity as a state religion.

"It's an atrocity," said the Rev. Timothy L. Carson, senior minister at Webster Groves Christian Church. "Thomas
Jefferson would be rolling in his grave. It's indicative of a movement within one segment of activist Christianity that
wants to dominate the rest with their views."

Some lawmakers blamed the backlash on a misunderstanding of the purpose of such resolutions.

The proposed resolution states that "voluntary prayer in public schools, religious displays on public property, and the
recognition of a Christian God are not a coalition of church and state."

It was recently approved by the House Rules Committee along party lines - five Republicans backed it, three
Democrats did not - and could come for a vote before the full House next week. It would also have to pass in the
Senate.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. David Sater, R-Cassville, and co-sponsored by Rep. Barney Joe Fisher,
R-Richards, is not a bill and therefore cannot become a law.

Rep. John P. Burnett, D-Kansas City, a House Rules Committee member who voted against passing the resolution to
the full House, dismissed it as "a political statement about Christianity."

Sater and Fisher could not be reached for comment. Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, chairman of the House Rules
Committee, also could not be reached.

The proposed resolution states that the country's forefathers "recognized a Christian God and used the principles
afforded to us by Him as the founding principles of our nation. ... As elected officials we should protect the majority's
right to express their religious beliefs while showing respect for those who object."

Conservative evangelical leaders were upbeat about it.

"The foundations of this country started with Christianity, and this just goes back and acknowledges where we
started," said the Rev. David Clippard, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

The Rev. Mark Friz, senior pastor at St. Paul's Evangelical Church in St. Louis, said he was "100 percent behind this
resolution."

But other Christian leaders were furious.

The Rev. David M. Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, said he found the resolution
"offensive as a Christian. I don't want the state defining my Christianity."

Some non-Christians also reacted strongly. Batya Abramson-Goldstein, executive director of the Jewish Community
Relations Council, said the fact that the resolution made it out of a committee was significant.

"It's not that this is one individual's opinion," she said. "Other legislators have voted on this already, so it takes on a
legitimacy that makes it more than a resolution. It's painful for faith communities outside the Christian community."

House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, believes the backlash against the resolution is unmerited. He
and other lawmakers say much of the uproar is due to a misunderstanding of resolutions. They are largely symbolic,
typically having no force of law. They serve as a kind of opinion poll that lawmakers hope will be noted, but officials
say privately that the measures are often ignored.

Bearden said that just because a resolution is filed, it doesn't necessarily represent the views of the entire
Legislature. While the resolution on religion has cleared the House Rules Committee, there's no guarantee it will go
further, he said.

In fact, dozens of resolutions filed in the past two years have died or been withdrawn. At least two of those were
similar to this year's religious resolution. One would have supported the motto "In God We Trust" for use in public
buildings.
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