Kern

Grease Mongers Rally Against Equality

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State Rep. Sally Kern’s immediate and vocal support for a business executive’s remarks criticizing same-sex marriage is about as predictable as it gets, but it’s still another embarrassment for Oklahoma on the national and international stage.

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A restaurants, purveyors of greasy, fried chicken sandwiches, waffle fries, sugared soft drinks and high-calorie desserts, recently said his company is opposed to same-sex marriage, which sparked calls for boycotts of his restaurants among equality groups and even some big-city mayors.

Cathy’s remarks can be construed as a horrible business decision at the very least, but what can you expect from a company that has a mission statement that includes this language: "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A." The company’s founder, S. Truett Cathy, is a right-wing religious ideologue of the Southern Baptist variety, and the company’s restaurants are even closed on Sundays as “a way of honoring God.”

See, S. Truett Cathy wants you to have some God with your grease:

I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities. One of the most visible examples of this is our decision to close on Sunday. Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business.

Of course, Oklahoma City’s Kern, another right-wing religious ideologue, likes her God with all the fixings, too, so she issued a statement about Cathy’s remarks opposing same sex marriage. According to a media report, Kern said, “We need to support a business [that] is willing to take a stand for those values that Oklahomans believe and support.” She apparently also said, “We are in a culture war, and people need to start getting involved.”

Kern is infamous throughout the world for once equating homosexuality with terrorism. She has also argued on the Oklahoma House floor that people of color and women don’t work as hard as men or, by logical extension, white men.

Her remarks supporting Chick-fil-A’s corporate bigotry are only worth noting because they are part of a pattern of controversial statements that make Oklahoma seem backwards and archaic.

Here’s an idea: Since Kern is so obsessed about homosexuality, why doesn’t she travel to places that actually allow same-sex marriage and fight her “culture war” where it really matters? Inciting the right-wing religious robots here doesn’t do much for her cause, and it only damages the state’s image in the process.

Meanwhile, the mayors of Boston and Chicago have both vowed to prevent Chick-fil-A expansion in their cities because of the company’s same-sex marriage stance, which could obviously hurt overall sales of fried chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. The San Francisco mayor has also warned Chick-fil-A to stay away from his city.

Here’s some nutritional information for a religiously inspired Chick-fil-A Deluxe Chicken sandwich, according to calorie count:

Calories: 420
Total Fat: 16g
Sodium: 1300mg
Carbohydrates: 39g

You want some heavenly waffle fries with that?

Calories: 270
Total Fat: 13g
Sodium: 115mg
Carbohydrates: 34g

Surely, you’ll want to wash down all that Godly goodness with a large Jesus-Is-Lord Coca Cola:

Calories: 250
Sodium: 25
Carbohydrates: 69g

Let’s top that off with an amen-sister! Fudge Brownie Sundae:

Calories: 590
Fat: 22g
Sodium: 230mg
Carbohydrates: 91g

Hallelujah! Can I get some extra bigotry with that?

The Death of Academic Freedom?

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Controversial lawmaker state Rep. Sally Kern is pushing a bill again this legislative session that would allow creationist ideas, such as the so-called intelligent design theory, into the state’s science classrooms.

House Bill 1551, which I’ve written about before, has passed the Common Education Committee on a 9 to 7 vote and could be heard by the full House soon. It’s a bad bill that is nothing more than religious intrusion into education, and, if passed, will almost certainly lead to an expensive lawsuit. The bill would require state educational authorities to dumb down its public school students, making them less prepared for college or work training.

Kern, pictured right, an Oklahoma City Republican, is nationally known for her comments in recent years disparaging gay people, African Americans and women. She’s the wife of a local Baptist minister, and often blends Christian fundamentalism with her office. Note her “Proclamation for Morality.” This bill is just another part of her religious crusade.

Kern has generated a tremendous amount of bad publicity for Oklahoma, and HB 1551 is just another example of a flagrant religious gesture that will be mocked and ridiculed inside and outside the state.

Let’s take a close look at the bill, which is a piece of disingenuous subterfuge. It’s called the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” which is just the opposite of what it represents. A title more representative of what the bill does would be “The Death of Academic Freedom Act” because it would replace critical inquiry with religious precepts.

The bill notes that the legislature finds “that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics can cause controversy.” It mentions these areas, in particular: biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

The phrase “can cause controversy” is strikingly nebulous. There’s no scientific controversy over these topics, only religious or political controversy, especially with the theory of evolution. In addition, “can cause controversy” could apply to just about anything in a school’s curriculum, including interpretations of history or political systems. How can we possibly define “can cause controversy”? Note the modifying “can.” It “can” but then again it might not.

The bill notes that “some teachers may be unsure” about how to present information on “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” Again, note the qualifying “may.” Are teachers “unsure” or not? So they “MAY be unsure” about something that “CAN cause controversy.”

Even though the bill qualifies the reason for its intent, it then seemingly gets more declarative:

Educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies.

What controversies? What are the “effective ways” to help teachers with these “can cause” controversies? It’s just another blanket statement that could be interpreted in a myriad number of ways.

The bill also protects students who may feel compelled, for whatever reason, to reject the scientific method:

Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories.

But how exactly would a student be penalized in the first place?

The bill’s language and intent is vague because it’s undoubtedly a disingenuous attempt to bring religious ideas, such as intelligent design, into the science classroom. Intelligent design, which has been invalidated as science by a federal court, argues that the natural world is so complicated only a “designer” (i.e., wink, wink, a god) could be responsible for it. Intelligent design is just creationism dressed up in faux scientific jargon. It is NOT a scientific counter to the theory of evolution.

I’ve given my reasons against HB 1551 in a previous post. To summarize, there’s no scientific controversy over the topics the bill addresses, teachers will feel forced to present religious concepts in science classroom as “controversies,” students will waste valuable class time on issues better addressed at a church, and the state’s image will suffer. The bill would also make it more difficult for the state to produce and attract physicians and medical researchers. This is in a state with poor national medical rankings and a low college graduation rate.

The bill is similar to one passed recently in Louisiana. That bill resulted in a science organization cancelling its convention in New Orleans and a petition signed by 75 Nobel Laureates calling for its repeal. The city of New Orleans has voted in favor of repealing the law, and a state senator has filed a bill to repeal it as well.

Do we really need this type of negative publicity and energy in Oklahoma?

Here are the organizations that have already lined up to oppose the bill: Oklahoma Academy of Science, Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science education, Oklahoma Mainstream Baptists, OKC and Tulsa Interfaith Alliances and most major national science organizations, which includes the largest scientific organization in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Here is the contact email information for the House Republican leadership:

State Rep. Kris Steele, Speaker of the House, krissteele@okhouse.gov
State Rep. Jeffrey Hickman, Speaker Pro Tem, jwhickman@okhouse.gov
State Rep. Dale dewitt, Majority Floor Leader, daledewitt@okhouse.gov
State Rep. Harold Wright, Deputy Floor Leader, harold.wright@okhouse.gov
State Rep. Welson Watson, Majority Caucus Chair, weldon.watson@okhouse.gov

This is a bad bill that will do irreparable harm to Oklahoma. A similar bill, SB 1742, sponsored by state Sen. Josh Brecheen, is now dormant. I wrote about that bill here.

Sally’s Selective Morality

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The idea that state Rep. Sally Kern should be calling for anyone’s resignation from political office except her own is about as ludicrous as it gets and a case of extremely selective morality.

But, then, this is a woman who once equated homosexuality with terrorism and argued people of color only want a free ride from the government. Her bizarre logic has long been seen as kooky throughout the world as has her freakish moral system, which appears to be anchored on hate and anger.

Kern, a Republican, called for U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation—he has since resigned but hardly because of Kern’s remarks--as she promoted her book, The Stoning of Sally Kern: The Liberal Attack on Christian Conservatism and Why We Must Take a Stand. Apparently, the book is a “poor, poor pitiful me” story criticizing those awful people who dared to call her out on her hatred, which is apparently fueled by her fundamentalist religious beliefs. Here’s an insightful Oklahoma Gazette article about the book.

Weiner, a Democrat, recently resigned after what some people saw as inappropriate social messaging between him and a number of young women. His exploits created a media hurricane that eventually destroyed his political career. But, at this point, no one claims he broke any laws or even cheated physically on his wife.

As far as I know, Kern remained publicly quiet about the escapades of members of her own political party, which include former U.S Sen. John Ensign, who had an affair with one of his staffers, former U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, who resigned after contacting someone on Craigslist with a photograph showing him shirtless, U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, who was arrested for suspicion of lewd conduct in an airport bathroom and former U.S Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned after he was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to male Congressional pages. Where was Sally’s moral outrage then?

But what does it matter anyway when we can read about Kern’s efforts to sort of backtrack on her anti-gay comments. This is how she was quoted recently in NewsOK.com:

I didn't actually call homosexuals terrorists, I just said homosexuality in my opinion was worse than terrorism. The homosexual agenda is destroying the moral fiber of our nation.

According to ABC News, this is what Kern said in a 2008 speech that become infamous for its hatred and bizarre, unsubstantiated logic:

During the speech, Kern said that "the homosexual agenda is just destroying this nation" and that homosexuality poses a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism. "According to God's word, that is not the right kind of lifestyle," she said.

"Studies show no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than a few decades," Kern, a former teacher who sits on the education committee, added.

What’s the difference between what she said then and what she said now? What is she trying to clear up? The nuance between “homosexuals are terrorists” and “homosexuality in my opinion was worse than terrorism”?

But let’s move on. Here’s what Kern said on the Oklahoma House floor this past session, remarks for which she was eventually reprimanded:

We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.

In the same set of remarks, she also said women didn’t want to work as hard as men.

No book or set of religious beliefs can qualify Kern’s archaic worldviews or her selective morality. She does immense damage to the state’s national image, and she will continue to do so.

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