Mid-Term Election Ballot Initiatives

By Nate Hennagin

Yesterday was a historic election that led to a Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives and gains in the U.S. Senate. Even though most of the talk seems focused on the outcomes of the House, Senate, and gubernatorial races, we’d like to look at two ballot initiatives of relevance to church-state separation.

The first of these ballot initiatives is SQ 755 in Oklahoma, a constitutional amendment that would ban Islamic law, known as Sharia law, from being used in state and federal court decisions. In reality, though, this amendment has no legitimate purpose and is completely unnecessary. The U.S. Constitution, through the Establishment Clause, already prohibits religion from being used as a basis for our laws. And Article I of the Oklahoma Constitution also bars this. The effect of the measure is to promote religious intolerance and fan the flames of the anti-Muslim rhetoric already circulating the nation. AU opposed the amendment: the Wall of Separation blogged about it and we sent a letter to over 300 AU members and supporters in Oklahoma. Unfortunately the ballot measure passed by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.

Despite that bad news out of Oklahoma, AU did receive some great news from Colorado. On the ballot in the Centennial State was Amendment 62, a constitutional amendment that would define the beginning of life at fertilization. As such, it would enshrine in the state constitution a particular religion's teachings about the beginnings of life over all others, and as result, would prohibit abortion in all circumstances. This is a clear violation of religious liberty and AU took action by sending a letter to over 700 members and supporters, urging them to vote no on this harmful resolution. This time voters made the right choice and over 70% of them voted down the amendment.