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.
SQ 790 would strip Article 2 Section 5 from our state constitution. This provision, which has been a part of the Oklahoma Constitution since our state’s founding in 1907, prevents public money or property from being used to support any religion or religious institution. As Albert H. Ellis, the second vice president of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, explained, the provision “not only guards the citizens right to be free from taxation for the support of the church,” but also protects the integrity of houses or worship. We should not remove this important religious freedom protection from our constitution.
Some supporters of SQ 790 say it will allow the state to return a Ten Commandments monument to the state capitol. They are upset that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the monument violated Article 2 Section 5 and want to eliminate that obstacle. I would argue that putting the Ten Commandments up at the state remains a bad idea – the state shouldn’t endorse a religious creed. Nonetheless, removing the no-aid clause from their state constitution won’t solve the problem. Any attempt to return the Ten Commandments monument to the state capitol would be immediately challenged in federal court and would still likely be found to violate the U.S. Constitution. And Oklahomans, of course, will have to once again foot that bill.
SQ 790 threatens real religious liberty in Oklahoma.
Passing SQ 790 could cause us other problems too. It could open the door to taxpayer dollars being funneled to religious institutions for all sorts of other things, including a more extreme private school voucher programs than the limited one that currently exists.
In addition, if SQ 790 passes, Oklahoma would no longer have the power to define what religious liberty should look in our own state. Instead, that power would go to the federal courts.
We are not alone in opposing SQ 790. Both the Tulsa World and the Tahlequah Daily Press oppose the measure, as have faith groups and religious leaders. And, Oklahomans across the state have also voiced their opposition in letters to the editor and op-eds.
I will be joining these Oklahomans in voting no on SQ 790 and hope other Oklahomans will too.
Aimee Breeze is president of Americans United’s Oklahoma Chapter.