Jonathan Garthwaite

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other forms that have been tried." - Winston Churchill

Nowhere are the warts of democracy more apparent than during the campaigning process on a citizen initiative and referendum. In 27 states, citizens and lobbying groups can put proposed constitutional amendments up for a vote by the public. But in an era of sound bites, negative ads, and outright deception, the debate over something as complicated as a constitutional amendment doesn’t lend itself well to being decided with a single up or down vote by a drive-by voting public.

This is being demonstrated very clearly in Missouri, where a deceptive campaign is being waged to pass a constitutional amendment that would promote false hope for the suffering and create human life in order to destroy it.

In November, the citizens of Missouri will be asked if their state constitution “[should] be amended to allow and set limitations on stem cell research, therapies, and cures….”

Sounds reasonable enough, doesn’t it? Most Americans would probably think so too and may vote yes if they don’t keep reading. If they did, the amendment gets a tad murkier.

"Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to allow and set limitations on stem cell research, therapies, and cures which will:

• ensure Missouri patients have access to any therapies and cures, and allow Missouri researchers to conduct any research, permitted under federal law;
• ban human cloning or attempted cloning;
• require expert medical and public oversight and annual reports on the nature and purpose of stem cell research;
• impose criminal and civil penalties for any violations; and
• prohibit state or local governments from preventing or discouraging lawful stem cell research, therapies and cures?"

I’m confused. Does this constitutional amendment limit stem cell research or encourage it? Unfortunately, the language above is all the voter gets. The actual legalese of the amendment is tucked away and is the ultimate in “fine print.” It’s no surprise there is a great deal of confusion in Missouri over this amendment.

Opponents of “Amendment 2” correctly point out several deceptions in the language that would raise concerns if the measure were to pass.

Jonathan Garthwaite

Jonathan Garthwaite is General Manager of