‘High Noon’ In Oklahoma: Religious Right Grills Speaker Of The House

Religious Right activists in Oklahoma who call themselves the “High Noon Club” grilled the House speaker in April, complaining that their concerns aren’t receiving enough attention in the legislature.

According to The Oklahoman newspaper, Speaker Kris Steele came under metaphorical fire at an unlikely location – an Oklahoma City gun range. Members of the group demanded to know why the legislature has not acted on bills they support barring enforcement of Islamic law, opting out of federal health care, restricting immigration and allowing “open carry” of guns.

“What do we do to be able to stop this shell game at the legislature and get this stuff through?” asked the Rev. Dan Fisher, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon. “We elected people to go in there and change these things, and then somehow the leadership structure and the rules and everything that’s set up ends up derailing all the very things we want the most.”

(In September of 2008, Fisher endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain from the pulpit of his church and then issued a press release trumpeting the move. Americans United reported his church to the Internal Revenue Service.)

Steele, a Republican who represents Shawnee, is an associate pastor at a United Methodist Church. But his religious credentials did him little good with this crowd. One attendee demanded to know if Satanists, communists and atheists serve on his church board, and another accused him (falsely) of trying to secure a pardon for a man who had raped several children.

The Oklahoman observed, “Steele may have wondered whether his head would be added to the collection of more than 20 animals hanging on the walls in a meeting room at the gun range.”

Steele ran into trouble with the group in December when he told Republicans at a meeting that his top focus would be on economic issues.

The High Noon Club was formed more than a year ago by several prominent Republicans in the state. Among them was state Rep. Sally Kern, a Religious Right favorite known for her claim that God has chosen her as a “cultural warrior” and that the United States is a “Christian nation.”

The club meets every Friday, and about 50 people usually attend. Kern once told KFOR-TV, “The only thing I don’t like is often we talk so long we don’t get to shoot.”

Not everyone finds the group’s antics helpful. After The Oklahoman story ran, J.D. Ward, pastor of New Hope United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, wrote a letter to the editor to say he found the club’s approach troubling.

“I suppose that some who were at that meeting believe that one must share their political and social opinions to be a genuine Christian,” wrote Ward.

He pointed out that the United Methodist denomination believes in social justice and added, “Methodists believe that Jesus calls for us to love all people, regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. We believe the kingdom of God is spiritual and not political. This means we still believe in the separation of church and state. In other words, we can be committed to Christ and disagree on social and political issues.”