March 4, 2008
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.
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.