May 2016 Church & State - May 2015

Okla. Seeks To Alter Church-State Provisions

  AU admin

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.

The move was inspired by ongoing controversy over the fate of a Ten Commandments monument. That monument stood on the grounds of the state capitol until last June, when the state Supreme Court ordered it removed in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a coalition of taxpayers. Bruce Prescott, an Americans United chapter activist and Southern Baptist minister, was among the plaintiffs.

Mitch Randall, a Baptist minister based in Norman, wrote on his church’s blog that the push to change the constitution invokes the state’s sordid history.

“If successful, they will be taking a big step backwards in returning our state to a time when religious persecution was acceptable under Colonialism and Native Americans were forced to worship as those in authority dictated,” Randall argued.

The resolution, H.J.R. 1062, passed 86-10. A vote is pending in the state Senate.

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