We can only hope state Rep. Sally Kern’s latest documented rant means the end of the political vitriol aimed at gay people in this state.
Unfortunately, corporate media outlets here—led by the right-wing The Daily Oklahoman—continue to support politicians who use gay people as scapegoats to win the radical, right-wing religious vote in this state. As long as this dynamic continues, as long as the newspaper’s top editors support these politicians, the Kerns, Coburns and Inhofes will dominate the public dialogue about gay rights.
Kern, a Republican representative from Oklahoma City, was taped recently giving a speech in which she compares gay people to terrorists. She said gay people represent the biggest threat to America these days. Here is the audio file. Listen for yourself. The tape has sparked a national outcry from gay and lesbian groups and rational people throughout the world.
Kern, who is married to a Baptist minister, validates the Oklahoma radical right-wing religious folks. Even as her tape became public, she was pushing to pass legislation that would allow students to express religious views at schools even if not applicable to coursework and assignments. The bill she pushes is another attempt some say to bring creationism into schools and challenge established scientific principles. (Read my recent article in the Oklahoma Gazette.)
But do not ask The Oklahoman for any real help on the issue. This is the newspaper’s lame editorial response to the Kern debacle. Here is the telling paragraph in the editorial: "Kern has been bombarded with e-mails and phone messages, many of them hateful and ugly. But she's offered no apology, saying she was talking about gay activists who target conservative Republicans. (Those activists, it should be noted, often resort to similarly extreme and incendiary arguments, usually without recrimination.)" See, according to the newspaper, we should "note" all those terrible gay activists fighting discrimination and bigotry, people like television star Ellen DeGeneres, who tried to call Kern to talk to her about about the issue.
Sadly, Kern’s crusade—turning public schools into theocratic fortresses and inciting hatred against gay people—continues to win support throughout the state. Gov. Brad Henry, the most popular governor in the state’s history, says Oklahomans are tolerant, but how can they be tolerant when only the ultra-conservative view of reality is given space on the editorial page of the state’s largest newspaper?
Oklahoma, without a doubt, is in a time warp, NBA team or not.
Think back at Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s positions on gay people as he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress, or what about U.S. Senators Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe? These are the little darlings of The Oklahoman. Certainly, The Oklahoman in recent years has supported openly gay politicians, such as Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth, and has opposed religious intrusion in schools, but it is simply not enough.
What about supporting an ouster movement against Kern? What about refusing to support the candidacy of Inhofe, 73, the gay-bashing curmudgeon running for re-election against a progressive Democrat, state Sen. Andrew Rice?
As true as red dirt, Oklahomans will continue to vote ugly, hateful politicians into office as long as corporate media outlets here explicitly and implicitly sanction their actions.
State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) is gearing up her crusade to dictate Oklahoma public school teachers turn their classrooms into narrow minded bastions of Christian extremism and fanaticism.
Kern, along with another legislator, state Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City), are introducing similar bills, both named the Religious Viewpoints Discrimination Act, according to a media report. The bills will be considered in this upcoming legislative session.
I have written about Reynolds’ bill before. Kern’s bill is apparently another back door way to try to stop the teaching of evolution and the scientific method in our state schools. Essentially, students would be allowed to argue—without any penalty—against established knowledge in all fields using fundamentalist religious arguments.
For example, students might use pseudo science, such as intelligent design, an offshoot of creationism, to undermine basic scientific facts in a classroom. Teachers could be forced to sit idly by as religious fanatics hector their fellow students about evolution and other topics that do not fit into the small intellectual framework of the Christian fundamentalists.
Kern, whose husband is a pastor, and Reynolds say their bills are needed to ensure religious students are not discriminated against, but the real intent is to expand the right-wing Christian fundamentalist agenda in public schools here. These are dangerous bills that will lower the bar for Oklahoma students and prevent the basic dissemination of scientific knowledge. The insidious, disingenuous nature of these bills cannot be overstated.
According to an Associated Press story in The Daily Oklahoma, Kern, a former teacher, said, "There's a great deal of confusion out there. Any time a student says something about God or Jesus, they're immediately censored."
I challenge the veracity of this statement. School teachers, principals and superintendents in the state should challenge this statement as well. Students have never been nor will they ever be consistently “immediately censored” for talking about religion in Oklahoma classrooms. Teachers in Oklahoma do not attempt to stop their students from holding or expressing religious beliefs. This is a non issue.
Sally Show Begins
State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) will try to restrict reproductive rights even further for Oklahoma women this coming legislative session.
House Bill 1004, filed by Kern, would require doctors who perform abortions to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles where the procedure was performed. This is yet another measure to restrict abortion and other reproductive services.
As reported earlier by The Practical Progressive, this legislation would prevent out-of-state doctors, who are licensed in Oklahoma, from performing the procedures. This has been a common practice in some states.
Last legislative session, the state passed laws restricting abortion in the state. The restrictions included the requirement minors get parental consent before they have an abortion and state funding of anti-choice information centers. The legislature also passed laws requiring physicians tell women the fetus feels pain, which is not proven scientifically. A new law also requires doctors to offer women a sonogram view of the fetus before an abortion.
There was also a political effort last year to restrict access to Plan B, the emergency contraceptive for women. Plan B has been approved for over-the-counter sales by the Federal Drug Administration.
State legislators of both major political parties will continue to impose their religious views on Oklahoma women by restricting their access to reproductive services until people speak up. This issue marginalizes women in our overall culture, and especially in conservative Oklahoma, and denies women freedom to make decisions about their own bodies.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that tracks reproductive rights: “In 2000, 96% of Oklahoma counties had no abortion provider. 56% of Oklahoma women lived in these counties. In the South census region, where Oklahoma is located, 32% of women having abortions traveled at least 50 miles, and 10% traveled more than 100 miles.”
No rational person favors the use of abortion for standard birth control, but religious ideologues also want to restrict access to basic birth control as well. Sex education and easy access to birth control will bring down the unwanted-pregnancy rate, but the ideologues—primarily Christian extremists—have a larger agenda.
It’s important to note this will probably not be the only measure this upcoming session trying to restrict reproductive rights in Oklahoma. Kern represents an area in northwest Oklahoma City and Bethany. She and other Christian extremists may well introduce more legislation denying women the ability to control what happens to their bodies.
Abortion is obviously a controversial issue for some Christians, but no one is forced to have an abortion in this country. If you’re against abortion, don’t have one. This is about state Christian fundamentalists demanding everyone view the world through their narrow-minded religious filter. This is about religious intrusion in government. This is about politically moderate and liberal Christians (is “liberal Christian” an oxymoron these days?) allowing right-wing Christian extremists to hijack their religion on a couple of cultural wedge issues like abortion and gay rights.
Do a majority of Oklahoma woman want to give up their reproductive rights. No. But many women are afraid to speak up in a state that marginalizes anyone who dissents from the right-wing, religious agenda.
I wrote this on March 4, 2006 on Okie Funk:
"Not one Oklahoma politician has come out forcefully and presented counter legislation that would stop the religious freaks from embarrassing our state, damaging our economy by branding us with the 'ignorant hick' logo, and turning our schools into quasi-churches.
"Not one Oklahoma politician in this state has stepped up and said 'enough is enough,' championing the cause of intellectualism and rationalism and logic and medical science, the hallmarks of modernity and enlightenment.
"Not one Oklahoma politician has said figuratively and loudly to our college graduates now leaving the state in droves that the fight for intellectual freedom can be waged even in one of the reddest of red states."
A bill (SB 24) filed by state Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) would limit the growth of state spending to the previous year’s spending plus five percent.
Sounds like a TABOR hybrid, and you can expect similar measures this coming session.
TABOR, or the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, is the idea that the growth of state spending should be limited to the previous year’s spending plus an increase based on a formula tied to population growth and the inflation rate. An initiative petition drive to place the issue as a constitutional amendment on the ballot here was declared invalid by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Oklahoma, which lags far behind in education funding in the country, simply can’t allow itself to be tied to budget measures that restrict it from taking care of its structural problems. For example, the state has had one of the lowest per student spending rates in the nation for years. It often has the lowest or near the lowest teacher salaries in the nation as well.
It’s virtually impossible to increase taxes without a vote of the people in Oklahoma, and the legislature has been reducing taxes lately, not raising them. If the state has extra money to wisely and prudently invest in improving the state, then it should do so. This is just common sense, not ideology.