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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.

 

 

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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

Copyright © 2003 Americans United -- Oklahoma Chapter  P.O. Box 892747 Oklahoma City, OK 73189.   Phone and Fax:  405-632-0037   Send mail to jhuff@auok.org with questions about the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State

 

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