It appears State Rep. Sally Kern’s crusade to turn state schools into religious enclaves is dead this legislation session.
According to Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, Kern’s House Bill 1001, which, as introduced, would require schools give religious groups equal access to facilities and allow students to express religious views in assignments without penalty, has missed its third reading. This means the bill is dormant.
The OESE points out, however, that the measure can always get attached to another bill, and so nothing is sure until the legislative session is over in May. Gov. Brad Henry vetoed a similar bill last year.
I wrote about the bill recently in the Oklahoma Gazette.
Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican and the infamous gay basher who once said homosexuality is a bigger threat than terrorism, continues to make Oklahoma seem like a hateful place of intolerance. Her public comments and extreme legislative proposals are a real embarrassment to the state.
Another measure, State Bill 320, sponsored by State Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso), which some educators said would have allowed the teaching of intelligent design faith in the school’s science classrooms, was defeated in a committee vote. The bill was seen by some people as a direct attack on evolution.
In other legislation, two House resolutions, introduced by State Rep. Todd Thomsen (R-Ada), criticize Richard Dawkins’ recent visit to the University Oklahoma. This prompted Dawkins, a former Oxford University professor and noted evolutionist, to actually waive his speaking fee and donate $5,000 to OESE to help fight the anti-evolution crowd in Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, The Oklahoman editor, Ed Kelley, actually criticized Republicans for introducing meaningless legislation that makes the state seem like an unwelcoming place. Although he didn’t mention HB 1001 or SB 320, Kelley did focus on the English-only bill, a bill requiring Oklahoma students pledge allegiance to the state and a bill that would install a Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds.
When the country’s most conservative metropolitan newspaper starts criticizing Republicans, it’s time to pay attention. Oklahoma remains, as I’ve often said before, the country’s premier museum of dead, neoconservative ideologies. The state needs more jobs, better health care systems and improved schools, not this ideological junk.
(State Reps. Sally Kern and Randy Terrill have drawn Democratic opponents this election year. Ron Marlett is running against Kern. Democrats Troy Green and Charles Barnes are running against Terrill. These Democrats deserve not only the support of their local House districts but also the help of Oklahomans who care about the intellectual integrity of the state’s educational systems and its national and world image.)
Gov. Brad Henry did the right thing by vetoing state Rep. Sally Kern’s disingenuously named “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act,” which was nothing more than another right-wing legislative attempt to bring fundamentalist Christianity into our schools.
As we know, the extremist legislator from western Oklahoma City has a clear agenda. Kern, pictured right, is world famous for it. She wants to make Oklahomans suffer under her narrow, ugly religious views. Certainly, Kern and her followers would not use the words “suffer” or “ugly,” but who can really deny that she does not want her vision of religious reality mandated by the state of Oklahoma and its tax dollars? Kern made national headlines recently and embarrassed the state with her infamous gay-bashing remarks that were recorded and later distributed on YouTube.
The vetoed legislation, House Bill 2633, would have essentially allowed more religious conflict and turmoil, under the benign rubric of “expression,” in our state schools and could have prevented teachers from penalizing students who use Biblical evidence for school assignments. The main idea behind the bill was obviously to advance the fundamentalist Christian theocratic initiative. Students can already express their religion or pray at schools, but the theocrats want more. The fact Kern and other supporters of such legislation use the progressive language of “anti-discrimination” is just another example of the political deceit used by the radical, right-wing religious folks here to abolish the separation of church and state.
Kern, a former school teacher, and her followers seem to think Oklahoma students do not need grounding in basic science and history. How do we train future doctors in a state that would allow students to earn “A’s” by denying basic scientific principles and theories? Do the local energy companies want to employ geologists and engineers who think the earth has only been around for 6,000 years or so?
Henry’s veto message, of course, did not include a word about Kern and her religious agenda. Nonetheless, his stated logic for the veto was based on sound logical and legal arguments, and Henry continues to provide the state with level-headed and rational leadership. Here is his veto message:
Under current state and federal law, Oklahoma public school students are already allowed to express their faith through voluntary prayer and other activities. While well intended, this legislation is vaguely written and may trigger a number of unintended consequences that actually impede rather than enhance such expression. For example, under this legislation, schools could be forced to provide equal time to fringe organizations that masquerade as religions and advocate behaviors, such as drug use or hate speech, that are dangerous or offensive to students and the general public. Additionally, the bill would presumably require school officials to determine what constitutes legitimate religious expression, subjecting them to an explosion of costly and protracted litigation that would have to be defended at taxpayers’ expense.
These are the some of the same arguments advanced for weeks now by Dr. Vic Hutchison, a zoology professor emeritus at the University of Oklahoma, who led a drive to defeat the legislation. Hutchison and the group, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, were diligent in keeping people informed about the legislation as it slowly and surely made its way to the governor’s office. David Averill published an excellent piece opposing the legislation in the Tulsa World on May 25. Here is my Oklahoma Gazette piece on the act. It was published on March 12.
Most of the GOP ideological legislation was defeated this year. Going down in defeat along with Kern’s legislation were the misguided Carry On Campus and English-only bills. The first bill would have allowed some college students to carry weapons in classrooms. It was opposed by every college president in the state. The second bill, sponsored by state Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore), would have put the issue of making English the state’s official language on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. The English-only mandate, if passed, would have made the state seem intolerant of other cultures. Terrill’s House Bill 1804, which gave the state the strictest anti-immigration laws in the country, has already placed a “Not Open For Business” sign on the state, but extremists like Terrill will always want more. Earlier in the session a bill called the Higher Education Sunshine Act, which many educators saw as an unnecessary right-wing intrusion into the classrooms of college professors, failed to make it to a vote.
Unfortunately, hybrids of all this legislation are sure to come back next year as the national GOP continues to use the state as a laboratory to push its dead ideologies. Those people who care about Oklahoma’s educational systems and its national image should start preparing now for the next onslaught of ideologically-driven legislation. Is it tiresome to fight year after year? Yes. But it is extremely important work to oppose this GOP radical legislation.
Kern and the anti-illegal immigration ideologue Terrill have drawn opponents this election. Ron Marlett, a Democrat, is running against Kern. Democrats Troy Green and Charles Barnes are running against Terrill. These Democrats deserve not only the support of their local communities but also the help of all those Oklahomans who believe in intellectual integrity and want the state to prosper.
(What exactly are these mixed vibes in Oklahoma City these days? Read DocHoc's commentary this week in the Oklahoma Gazette to find out.)
(Check out the sixteen reasons why Gov. Brad Henry should veto House Bill 2633 on Blue Oklahoma.)
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry should veto House Bill 2633, which contains a religious intrusion act that could help turn the state’s public schools into dark, oppressive theocratic institutions that reject science, critical inquiry and open discussion.
The act, sponsored by the right-wing extremist and gay-basher state Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), pictured right, will encourage students to express their religious views at schools. Under the act, which has been passed by the House and Senate, teachers will not be able to penalize students if they promote religious views in assignments, such as science papers. In essence, the act can be seen as an attack on the scientific method, the foundation of modern medicine.
Deceptively titled, “The Religious Viewpoints Anti-discrimination Act,” the legislation would allow students to openly and consistently express their religious views throughout the school on a daily basis. These views, under the act, will have to be given as much weight as any so-called secular expression, which is essentially the foundation of education. Some students will obviously feel pressured to join the new Christian organizations on campuses. Teachers could feel pressure to dumb down the curriculum for those students using their religion as an excuse not to complete a difficult assignment. Students will be afraid to express secular views in an intolerant religious environment. Students holding religious views outside of Christianity could feel harassed and intimidated.
These bogus “ant-discrimination” acts have been popping up in state legislatures throughout the country. Texas recently passed such an act. They are supported by the radical Christian right and those politicians who fear it, and the true aim is to bring fundamental Christianity into schools. Many people may see these bills as innocuous, but there are quite dangerous to our country’s educational system.
The local corporate media, of course, has not reported fairly on this measure, often excluding those educators who adamantly oppose the bill. The GOP’s state propaganda ministry, The Oklahoman editorial page, has been virtually silent on the measure even though it criticized Kern recently for her infamous rant against gay people.
Kern embarrasses the state on a colossal level, tarnishing the state’s image and hurting it economically, and then gets her way in turning our schools into intolerant, religious bastions. Where is the state leadership on this issue? Who will stand up for academic integrity and critical inquiry in our schools?
The bill is now waiting for Henry’s signature. The governor should veto this Dark-Ages bill, and we all should all be reminded The Oklahoman should never be taken seriously again about anything it says on its editorial page about improving education and educational opportunity in the state.