(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.