We’ve written about this before — see Oklahoma Theocracy — Coming Soon? The subject is State Question 790 — Oklahoma Public Money for Religious Purposes. It will be on the 08 November ballot in Oklahoma. If approved, State Question 790 would repeal Section 5 of Article 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which currently prohibits public money from being spent for religious purposes.
Our earlier posts didn’t stir up much interest, but this is important so we’re going to discuss it again. First, however, we’ll repeat some background information. The state Constitutional provision which may be eradicated now says:
Article II: BILL OF RIGHTS, Section 5: No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.
Thirty-eight states have such a provision in their Constitutions. It wisely keeps preachers from attempting to grab taxpayers’ money to support their ministries. The Founders of the US were mostly in agreement that the official, government-endorsed religions of their states were an impediment to liberty. That was the motivation behind Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Oklahoma may throw that away, opening the floodgates to religious conflicts in the legislature.
Okay, now we’re all on the same page. We’ve been watching the few articles about this that pop up from time to time. Some have opposed State Question 790, but most have been nothing but a brief description of it along with other issues on the ballot, without any serious discussion of the issues. Today, however, we found an editorial in The Oklahoman. That’s the state’s most widely circulated newspaper, located in Oklahoma City, the largest city in that state, and also the state capital. They actually recommend voting for State Question 790, and the newspaper has a comments section. The editorial is titled Oklahomans should vote yes on SQ 790. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Opponents of SQ 790 contend that Article II, Section 5 simply requires church-state separation. Not true.
In reality, Article II, Section 5 is an embarrassing relic of 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry. It fuels abusive lawsuits targeting programs that are perfectly legal under the U.S. Constitution. It has been employed to drive people of faith from the public sphere simply because they are people of faith.
Aha — that provision in the state Constitution is “an embarrassing relic” that drives people of faith from the public sphere! Then they describe what we assume is a carefully selected group of cases dealing with that provision of the Constitution, in Oklahoma and in some other states that have the same thing. The selected cases all involved taxpayer funding of church programs to help the poor and other people in need. The impression given is that tax money flowing to churches is vital, and without it there would be diseased and starving people dying in the streets. Here are some examples:
Anti-religious zealots once used Article II, Section 5 to try to stop state payments to an Oklahoma orphanage simply because it was run by Baptists. … The Council for Secular Humanism sued to prevent church-affiliated halfway houses in Florida from providing state-funded drug rehab assistance. … Numerous churches and religious organizations provide health care to the poor in Oklahoma. Article II, Section 5 could be used to challenge their state funding.
That’s great journalism! The state has to pour taxpayer money into churches or … we’re all gonna die! The editorial asks:
Why would anyone want to preserve a constitutional provision that has the potential for such severe negative effect?
Uh, maybe to avoid the unsightly clamoring of preachers and their lobbyists demanding that legislators should pay for their churches, their salaries, and — of course — teaching creationism in state schools. The wise editorial writers don’t consider any of that. Instead, they tell us:
SQ 790 opponents claim it will facilitate taxpayer funding for proselytizing. Not true. That will remain illegal (and no one is proposing taxpayer funding for missionaries anyway). By repealing Article II, Section 5, SQ 790 simply ensures people of faith in Oklahoma are allowed to continue providing much-needed services.
Yeah, sure. They end with this:
Article II, Section 5 provides no positive benefit, but could generate many negative outcomes. Its repeal should be welcomed by all Oklahomans of good will. SQ 790 accomplishes that goal. The Oklahoman endorses a yes vote on SQ 790.
So there you are. The Oklahoman favors theocracy. Maybe they’ll get what they wish for.
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