Tuesday, March 04, 2008

MOB Press Release Opposing OK H.B. 2211

March 4, 2008

Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists Oppose H.B. 2211, Urge its Defeat

Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists believe that H.B. 2211 is inappropriately entitled a “Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act.” In reality, it is “An Act Securing a Captive Audience for Public School Prayers and Devotions.” The bill authorizes popularly elected student leaders to express “religious viewpoints” over loudspeakers at public schools on a daily basis.

Mainstream Baptists oppose H.B. 2211 because it is too weak to adequately protect religious liberty and freedom of speech for all people.

Prayer is an act of worship. To suggest otherwise is to trivialize faith and belittle religion. Religious devotions and expressions are also acts of worship.

This nation was founded by people who refused to become a captive audience -- forced to listen to prayers and preaching led by the Church of England. That is why the Pilgrims came to America. That is why our Baptist forefathers came to America.

As written, this bill puts students in the same position as the early Pilgrims, Baptists, Quakers, Jews and others. It makes them a captive audience -- forced listen to the prayers, preaching and devotions of people with whom their own conscience and convictions may forbid them to worship.

To correct this injustice, the legislation needs to have a conscience clause. It needs to be amended to permit anyone -- regardless of their position and status within the school -- to politely leave the room when prayers and other acts of worship are being conducted. It also needs to make it a crime for anyone to belittle, berate, bully or penalize any person who exercises his/her own first amendment right to worship according to the dictates of his/her own conscience by leaving the room when “religious viewpoints” are being expressed during morning announcements, school assemblies, opening exercises at sporting events, etc.

Contact Information:
Dr. Bruce Prescott
Executive Director, Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists

The Mainstream Office is at the United Ministry Center near the University of Oklahoma at 1017 Elm Ave. Norman, OK 73072.


Asinus Gravis said...

This bill should be defeated and for the kind of reasons cited.

Basically the bill serves two primary purposes: (1) It seeks to curry favor with the religious right who are woefully ignorant of the crucial importance of the separation of church and state. (2) It seeks to provide a great deal of employment for lawyers who will get called on to defend this stupid legislation in courts all over the state, filed by people who are fed up with further social domination by the marority Baptists and Methodists in most towns.

Rodney Dunning said...

I must respectively disagree that this bill needs a conscious clause, although I agree with your opposition to the bill. Students who do not wish to listen to a prayer or devotional shouldn't have to leave the room. To leave the room during a prayer is an act that singles out a student, a kind of self-imposed exile that may create friction with his her classmates, and perhaps even the teachers. I believe a more reasonable compromise is this: students who do wish to listen to a prayer or devotion should be allowed to go to a designated place on school grounds where they can worship and/or pray as they choose.

Rodney Dunning

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...


I agree that my suggested compromise serves to single students out. In fact, in 1948 the United States Supreme Court agreed in a landmark case called McCollum vs. Board of Education.

Unfortunately, few people elected to the legislature at the state capitol in Oklahoma are willing to abide by Supreme Court precedents. Laws like H.B. 2211 were designed to create ways to avoid complying with such precedents.

Their legislation is designed to create religious conflict in public schools. I'm looking for ways to minimize the effects of the persecution of persons of minority faith within the public schools. Your suggestion about going to a designated place -- or perhaps several different kinds of designated places -- is very helpful.

Daryl Cobranchi said...

This law, even if passed, will not have the desired effect. It is so blatantly unconstitutional, even with your proposed amendments, that the OK-CLU would have no trouble getting a permanent injunction.

It's a dumb bill that deserves to die.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

If you're opposed to the Captive audience aspect of it why allow any expression of religiosity using school time, equipment and functions. There's no reason for it. Children are there to learn, not to be preached to. If the subject matter of a course involves informing students on various religions and their cultures / traditions, fine. This sounds way outside the bounds of the First amendment. If a student leader feels the need to pray, he/she has every right to do so without subjecting the entire school body to it. The religious student can take a few mins during lunch and pray as they choose.

The compromise you suggest is nearly as bad as the bill itself.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Big Chimp,

Your definitely not dumb. You are right about this bill being way out of bounds on the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, most of the legislators at the state house in Oklahoma do not believe in the first amendment. Their bill is designed to circumvent it. Then they will make a lot of work for all the law school graduates that are coming from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell's Christian Nationalist law schools.

I'm just trying to find creative ways to restore the intent of the First Amendment. For all intents and purposes, there is no First Amendment in Oklahoma. Most of the people elected to public office in Oklahoma are downright hostile toward the First Amendment.

Their political allies have been stacking Supreme Court justices for 25 years. They are confident that it is just a matter of time before the Supreme Court reinterprets the First Amendment to mean that the U.S. is a Christian Nation.

If you question my analysis, I suggest that you spend some time speaking to your State Representative and State Senator about opposing H.B. 2200 (the replacement for H.B. 2211.