The only wall we need

The only wall we need

It is often said that this most conservative stretch of Old Route 66 is the buckle of the Bible Belt and I will personally vouch for that description.  Yes, evangelical Christians comprise a majority of citizens in the Sooner State and as a voting block they are largely the ones responsible for electing the conservative majority in the state’s legislature.  As a majority they tend to become upset with things happening that do not cater to their sacrosanct religious belief system.  I wrote about this last July when the state supreme court banned the Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the State Capitol.

Never mind that the state supreme court upheld Article 2 Section 5 of the state constitution which prohibits public monies from being used for sectarian purposes in a 5 to 2 decision.  True to form, when such a group does not get their way they set about to change the rules to favor the outcome they seek.  During a time when our state faces a budget crisis and revenue failure that is only getting worse and funding cuts that are doing some very real harm to a huge segment of the citizenry on a daily basis, our evangelical senate majority chose to expend their time this week by passing a measure for a referendum on striking Article 2 from the state constitution.  Again, this can lead to certain unintended consequences but why worry when you hold a majority?

The Ten Commandments monument (photo by Wikimedia)

The Ten Commandments monument (photo by Wikimedia)

In a Presidential primary season and all manner of talk of building a wall that someone else will pay for there is sadly little acknowledgment of a long time existing wall that is most certainly under attack from forces actively seeking its removal.  President Thomas Jefferson underscored the Establishment Clause in his letter to the Danbury, CT Baptists in 1802:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.

I shudder to think that there are so many who abide by the late SCOTUS Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s opinion that Separation of Church and State is a metaphor based on bad history and should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.  These are the ones actively seeking to tear down that wall.  These parties ostensibly have no problem with government dictating policy by religious edict so long as it is their religious edict.  If ever we did need a wall separating anything this is that one essential edifice.

GOP Platform

  Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution as currently written is clear:

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.

Given that Oklahoma is reliably Republican in terms of Presidential electoral votes, my concern is the coattail effect of such a referendum and prospect of the above article being subsequently stricken from the state constitution.  I’m sure that some chuckle at the notion of the Theocratic Republic of Oklahoma.  Think it can’t happen here?  I just hope when the sun comes up on Wednesday morning after Election Day in November that we are not confronted with that specter.  Be duly advised that is not out of the realm of possibility.

Church & State

1 Comment

  1. Paul Sullivan
    Apr 21, 2016

    Not only did the republican majority vote for this but some of our fellow “democrats” did as well. Perhaps they do not realize they have opened the door to the great voucher wars again. Public money used for private/religious schools. The separation of church and state isn’t something to be “tinkered” with in my humble opinion. Not to mention the next law suit about the Ten Commandments that will cost the state even more money. But hey, we have plenty of that right now. Shaking my head and wondering why I am even trying to make change happen here.