Ulysses S. Grant, States Got It Right

Image of state Capitol and church

The effort to remove a measure from the Oklahoma Constitution ensuring the basic separation of church and state is getting based on a specious, disingenuous and reductionist argument.

The full story behind the so-called “Blaine Amendment,” or Article 2, Section 5, in the Oklahoma Constitution, is one that very much supports the argument that former President and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant wanted a public school system that was free from religious dogma and available to all children. That remains a noble and just cause. States, including Oklahoma, later used Grant’s initial philosophy and words to create constitutions that clearly separated church and state in much broader terms.

Any argument that narrows those parameters to speculate the measure was just primarily based on an anti-Catholic bias, or thus based on prejudice, simply leaves out so much it becomes useless as a historical reference.

Here’s the situation: The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently ordered a Ten Commandments monument removed from the state Capitol grounds, basing their decision on Article 2, Section 5, of the state constitution, which reads:

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

The Oklahoma Senate, in an apparent response to an obvious and logical judicial decision, has now passed Senate Joint Resolution 72 in a 39-5 vote that would give voters an opportunity to remove the language from the constitution in the upcoming election, and thus, it’s presumed at the very least, allow Ten Commandments and other religious monuments on government property. The resolution was sponsored by state Sen. Rob Standridge, a Norman Republican, who said the item in the constitution “represented an effort to suppress Catholic education . . .”

In the news release on the vote, Standridge also called the language the “Blaine amendment.” James Blaine was a post-civil war American Congressman and politician from Maine. He tried to get Congress in 1875 to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution containing similar language to what is now contained in the Oklahoma Constitution. That effort failed, but those who supported it managed to get the language embedded in most state constitutions. Thus, the term “Blaine Amendment,” or “The Blaines.”

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How Bad Will It Get Here Thanks To State’s Conservative Politicians?

Education systems are getting slashed once again with new 4 percent cuts, and a bill is advancing in the legislature that would remove 111,000 people from the state’s Medicaid program, but it’s not conservative enough for The Oklahoman editorial board.

In its Oklahoma ScissorTales series Saturday, the editorial board gives presidential Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders a backhanded complimented for at least speaking up forcefully as an “avowed socialist” in “seeking new recruits” after his victory here in the primary Tuesday. The mini-editorial makes the silly point that conservatives shouldn’t be afraid to speak up either. Here’s the gist:

If Sanders — an avowed socialist — isn't afraid of spreading his message and seeking new recruits, then why do so many Republicans in the Oklahoma Legislature appear frightened at the thought of arguing for conservative policies that attract broad support in a very conservative state? Instead of withdrawing into their shells, more Republicans should adopt Sanders' boldness and confidence to advance a conservative message.

That should make any reasonable person roll their eyes and wince if not cry. The state is drowning in a cesspool of conservative ideology right now, and The Oklahoman has the audacity to argue Republicans are “withdrawing in their shells.” It has to be mockery, right? Haven’t all the recent tax cuts for the wealthy here and the tax breaks for corporations been a perfect implementation of the GOP-inspired starve-the-beast ideology? That’s when you starve the government of needed funds, and then hand over all control of all aspects of American life from education to health care to correctional systems to the corporations and the pseudo-aristocracy here.

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Was OKC Renaissance Funded In Part By A Crook’s Money?

With the massive adoration and tributes pouring in on local corporate and social media outlets to honor the late Aubrey McClendon and his contributions to the so-called Oklahoma City renaissance, I don’t think it’s too early to ask some basic, realistic questions.

Was the great Oklahoma City renaissance, an exaggerated term for at least some of us who live here and an absolutely absurd term for the city’s impoverished people without decent medical access, funded at least partially by a crook’s money?

Are those organizations which gladly accepted money from McClendon, who was indicted Tuesday on rigging prices on oil and gas leases, willing to give that money back to make restitution to the people the local wildcatter baron is alleged to have ripped off along with, according to a recent news report, his former partner Tom Ward, if the allegations are true? Here is a partial list of organizations, according to various reports, that took McClendon’s money: The Lyric Theatre, Ballet Oklahoma, Oklahoma Museum of Art, Arts Council of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Heritage Foundation and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. What about the over-hyped Boathouse District with which McClendon was heavily involved? Then there’s the Boys and Girls Club of OKC, one of McClendon’s donees I appreciate the most. Despite these contributions, McClendon still had plenty of money left over to live a life with his family few of us can even comprehend.

Will those organizations at least stop their McClendon tributes and face the possibility the money they received was heavily tainted by corruption?

Will those prominent people who served on Chesapeake’s Board of Directors, which included Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis, during McClendon’s tenure and during the time period of the allegations return all their compensation to those people allegedly ripped off by McClendon or at least turn the money over to charities that help the poor if related legal claims are later proven?

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