Following so closely on the heels of the Sally Kern debacle I am once again amazed at the short sightedness of Oklahoma’s legislators. The First Amendment contains a very clear statement about what government can and can’t do regarding religion. It states very succinctly that “Congress shall make NO LAW (emphasis mine) concerning the establishment of religion nor the free exercise thereof.”
I don’t find it difficult at all to understand that “Congress shall make no law” means congress shall make no law. And yet well meaning legislators all over the country continue to waste tax payers time and money by “making laws” which concern the establishment of religion or the free exercise of religion.
Oklahoma’s most recent example:
HB 2211 − By Kern, Reynolds, Sullivan, Dank, Enns, Johnson (Dennis), Terrill and
Tibbs of the House and Williamson and Brogdon of the Senate.
An Act relating to schools; creating the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act;
requiring school districts to treat student expression in certain manner; directing school
districts to adopt a limited public forum for student speakers policy; stating purpose of the
policy; listing certain provisions; requiring school district disclaimers to be provided at
certain events; prohibiting the exclusion of religious expression from the limited public
forum; allowing student religious expression in class assignments; specifying standards for
judging homework and classroom assignments; allowing students to organize religious
groups and activities; specifying treatment of religious groups; allowing school districts to
disclaim school sponsorship of student groups; requiring school districts to adopt and
implement a limited public forum and voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints
policy; specifying that school districts adopting the model policy are compliant with the act;
setting forth the Model Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Policy; defining term;
providing for student expression of religious viewpoints; providing for student speakers at
nongraduation events; establishing public forum limits; providing for notification of eligible
students; specifying subject limitations; requiring distribution of a school district
disclaimer; allowing certain student speakers based on special positions of honor; providing
for student speakers at graduation ceremonies; establishing limited public forum; specifying
student eligibility criteria; specifying topic limitations; allowing certain student speakers
based on special positions of honor; specifying subject matter; requiring a written
disclaimer on graduation programs; providing for religious expression in class assignments;
requiring homework and classroom work to be judged on certain standard; providing for the
freedom to organize religious groups and activities; specifying treatment of religious
groups; allowing school districts to disclaim sponsorship of groups and events; providing
for codification; providing an effective date; and declaring an emergency.
The first clue that this is a law establishing religion is in the title, “The Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act.” You would think some of those smart people in the House and Senate would recognize that a law which defines, permits, controls, etc. religious expression is a law which establishes religious practice and as such is in violation of the first amendment. The word religious then appears at least ten times in the text of the bill. Anyone who cannot see that the intent of this act is not to protect student rights of self-expression which are already protected by the Bill of Rights, but to put school districts in the position of having to regulate religious expression.
It would also be a pleasant surprise to have Oklahomans think for themselves instead of merely copying what our neighbors to the South have already done. Fortunately, because they are merely following the herd, it is likely that Texas will have to bear the cost of having their law declared unconstitutional and then the Oklahoma legislature can just pretend it never happened.
If those who continue to waste the public’s time like this really are followers of Christ, somebody should explain to them that Christ’s message has managed to get out for 2000 years without the help of the Oklahoma legislature and I am convinced that it will continue to do so. If your legislator was one of those pushing for passage of this bill, please tell them that if they want to continue to receive your support they need to stop wasting their time on this kind of trivialization of the freedom of speech that they so loudly proclaim.
Just for emphasis let me say it again,
CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW . . .