First Amendment Advocate, Vol. 1, No. 2, August 2000
The Newsletter of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United
Other Church-State Issues in the State Legislature
by Jim Huff
SB 1179 OKLAHOMA’S “CHARITABLE CHOICE” BILL
Primary Sponsor: Sen. Pruitt
An act “relating to state contracts; prohibiting discrimination by state agencies against religious or faith-based organizations in contracting for provisions of goods, services, or disbursements to recipients; prohibiting imposition of certain conditions or discouragement of religious freedom”
Concerns: 1) permits religious/faith-based organizations to receive government funds with unmonitored restrictions on the promotion of the organization’s religious message. 2) allows discrimination on religious grounds when hiring and firing employees whose salaries are paid with taxpayer dollars.
The bill was not voted on in the Senate Government Operations Committee and did not come out of the committee for legislative votes.
IT WILL BE BACK.
HB 1821 “CHARACTER EDUCATION” PROGRAM IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Primary Sponsors: Representative Sellers and Senator Brown
An act “relating to schools; character education; authorizing local school district to implement instruction on development of good moral character; include certain information in the instruction . . .”
Concerns: 1) it specifically identifies “religious sources . . . but not limited to”, “Native American religions”, “Ten Commandments”, “Judaism”, “Christianity”, “Golden Rule”, “Ten Precepts of Buddhism”, “Five Pillars of Islam”. 2) It would authorize a public school classroom teacher as the interpreter of the moral applications of unlimited religious sources. A totally improper role for classroom teachers. 3) the bill goes beyond “teaching about” religious values/views to actually seeking to “impact a students character/morality”. This is the role of parents and houses of worship.
The bill was not taken up in the House Education Committee prior to the deadline.
IT WILL BE BACK.
SB 1162: “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION” BILL
Primary Sponsors: Senator Pruitt and Representative Vaughn
An act “relating to religious freedom; prohibiting burden upon free exercise of religion and providing exception; applying compelling interest test; stating parameters of authority.”
Concerns: Amendments were added to the bill in the House that limited the scope of the protections covered by the law. 1) Religious bodies in disputes over “land zoning” restrictions are not protected. 2) Religious bodies that accept or conduct “same sex marriages, unions, or the equivalent” are not protected.
The Conference Committee maintained these changes. It passed the House: 92 “aye” - 0 “no”. It passed in the Senate by a similar margin.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
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