From the story –
Measures include requiring teaching creationism in public schools, paving the way for vouchers for private schools, and establishing when life begins, which could interfere with medical research and a woman's choice to have an abortion, said members of the Oklahoma City chapter of the Americans for Separation of Church and State.
“We've got tons of legitimate problems in this state — economic problems and we've got big deficits,” said Mike Fuller, president of the local group. “These legislators want to focus on these ideological cases that really will not advance our state at all. They'll send it going backward in my opinion.”
Some of these ideological measures, such as prohibiting evolution being taught in public schools and embryonic stem cell research, will hurt efforts to attract business to the state, Fuller said.
Greg Stewart, a member of the group, criticized Senate Joint Resolution 23, which would allow voters to consider repealing a section of the state constitution that prohibits state money from being used for any church or religious teacher.
“Removing Article 2, Section 5 would harm religious freedom in this state,” he said.
Considering voters in November approved nine of the 11 state questions on the ballot, it's likely this measure would also win voter approval, several in the audience said.
John Krizan, director of the religious liberty department at the Tenth Street Seventh-day Adventist Church, 1407 NE 10, said he is concerned proposed bills are drawing the church into government affairs.
“The closer you get church and state together the weaker they both become,” he said.
Hutchison criticized Senate Bill 554, which would allow creationism to be taught in public school science classes. He called it a “slick bill” because it states it requires the teaching of evolution but would also consider creationism a science. It would allow religious answers to count on science tests and science assignments.
“We are not anti-religion,” Hutchison said. “We are simply saying religion is supernatural. It cannot be addressed by science.”
Fuller said he is troubled by four bills that would define when life begins in a woman's womb. Some are similar to a measure Henry vetoed two years ago which would have made it a crime for a scientist to perform any form of embryonic stem cell research. The House barely voted to override it; the Senate didn't have enough votes for an override.
House Bill 1571 defines a person as a human being at all stages of human development, including the state of fertilization or conception.
“If it ever is established that an embryo is a person the whole abortion rights case falls apart,” Fuller said. “Women would have no rights. … There would be litigation beyond belief.”
There seem to be three major issues listed here in this story: 1. repealing Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma State Constitution, 2. the teaching of creationism in science class, and 3. abortion. Let’s take a quick look at each in turn.
- Repealing Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma State Constitution. Article 2, Section 5 states --
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.Repealing this part of the Constitution would be a terrible idea. Public money should not be used to promote or support religious organizations. End of story. And for those who think that repealing this is a good idea, just realize that once it is done that means that public money could be funneled into non-Christian religious organizations. Can you imagine the public outrage if an Islamic organization were to be given tax dollars. If this passes that could happen.
- The teaching of Creationism/Intelligent Design in science class. Creationism/Intelligent Design are not scientific theories, they are religious ideas and thus they do not belong in science class. However, as I’ve mentioned in the past, if a student brings up the topic in class it should be discussed with respect to the student and his/her religious beliefs. There is nothing wrong with discussing / asking questions about the topic, but it is not something that belongs in the curriculum or on the test.
- Abortion. This is a topic that I tend to shy away from discussing for a variety of reasons. My thoughts in regards to this story are as follows—it was my understanding that Oklahoma has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country and thus I don’t see the need for this type of legislation. It would have serious unintended (or maybe not so unintended) consequence that could limit many job opportunities in the state in the high tech / medical research fields. Instead of putting more laws on the books and increasing the size and scope of the government, why not work to find a away to solve the high teenage pregnancy rate in this state? And I’m not talking about using legislation to do it either, outside of campaigns to teach kids the consequences of getting pregnant. There is a gigantic irony that in the most conservative state in the nation, we have incredibly high teenage pregnancy rates. When I moved here in 1992 I remember there being at least two or three girls in my graduating class that either had kids or were pregnant. Teenage pregnancy was unheard of in my high school in Florida. And that was 20 years ago, before Bristol Palin, before Britney Spears’ little sister got knocked up (or was even born), before that teen mom reality show. The irony still amazes me. As religious and conservative as this state is, you’d think that those “no sex before marriage” values would have made a difference. I guess what really would have made more of a difference is kids smart enough to know how and why to use a condom.
With everything that our state legislature should be doing this session, discussing these issues isn’t it. We have budget problems that need to be addressed, jobs that need to be created, and an economy that needs to grow. These bills will not help in any of those areas. The state legislature needs to stop wasting our money on these inconsequential issues and focus on the things that need to be addressed.