People went to the polls yesterday to vote on more than just who would be the next president of the United States. Voters in two states and one city voted on ballot initiatives that would have impacted religious freedom.
By Kelly Percival
Thirty-eight states protect religious liberty in their constitutions by prohibiting taxpayer money from being used to fund religion or religious institutions. These “no-aid clauses” safeguard the integrity of houses of worship by ensuring that they do not become beholden to state interests. Next week, however, Oklahoma voters will face State Question 790, a dangerous ballot measure that, if passed, would repeal Oklahoma’s no-aid-to-religion clause and erode the separation of church and state there.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin last month called on state residents to pray for the oil industry.
Fallin issued a proclamation declaring Oct. 13 “Oilfield Prayer Day.” The proclamation notes that “Oklahoma is blessed with an abundance of oil and natural gas” and “Christians acknowledge such natural resources are created by God.” It concludes by asking residents to “thank God for the blessings created by the oil and natural gas industry and to seek His wisdom and ask for protection.” The proclamation was later altered to remove specific Christian references.
In addition to voting for the next leader of our country, Oklahomans will be casting their vote on a number of state ballot measures in November. As the president of AU’s Oklahoma Chapter, I hope we vote down State Question 790.
Apparently Oklahoma’s oil industry has fallen on hard times, so Gov. Mary Fallin (R) is asking her constituents to call on divine intervention to save it.
Fallin has declared Oct. 13 “Oilfield Prayer Day.” The proclamation says that Oklahomans “acknowledge such natural resources are created by God” and asks Fallin’s constituents to “thank God for the blessings created by the oil and natural gas industry….”
Oklahoma voters will make crucial decisions about their political future this November, and only one concerns the White House. They’ll also have the opportunity to remove a clause from the state constitution that defends the separation of church and state.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has taken a step toward removing the state constitution’s clause prohibiting aid to churches, denominations and religious schools.
In March, legislators passed a resolution to place the so-called “no-aid” clause on the ballot, giving voters an opportunity to remove it.
Oklahoma voters in November will face a radical ballot initiative that could, if passed, alter the state’s constitution to allow taxpayer money to flow directly into the coffers of sectarian institutions.
Last week, Oklahoma lawmakers approved SJR 72, which has been advertised as an amendment that would allow government-sponsored religious displays on public land. But the change might do much more than that if it is approved by voters this fall.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in February that a voucher program benefiting students with disabilities does not violate the state constitution.
The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program allows the parents of students with disabilities to use public funds to place their children in private schools, including religious ones. In 2013, a coalition of parents, educators, a state senator and a retired judge filed suit to end the program.
A six-foot-tall granite monument of the Ten Commandments no longer stands at the Oklahoma State Capitol after workers removed it Oct. 5.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in June that the monument’s presence on Capitol grounds violates the state constitution, which prohibits the government from endorsing religion. The tablets were moved to private property owned by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative group.