Things a State Capitol building needs: A place where legislators can cast votes. Some conference rooms. Offices for the elected officials. Maybe a gift shop.
Things a State Capitol building doesn’t need: A home for Jesus.
Yet, in blueprints for the soon-to-be-renovated Capitol building in Oklahoma, House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) appears to have added plans for a chapel:
“The idea of a chapel has been put out there, and as far as that idea, we would have to look at what other states deemed constitutional before we proceed with a such a plan,” Joe Griffin, a spokesman for [Shannon] said Monday.
The chapel was Shannon’s idea, Griffin said.
The room also could be used for storage or another purpose, he said.
“No taxpayer money has been spent on a chapel other than the ink that is on the blueprints,” Griffin said Tuesday. “If we are able to create a chapel, we would love to. But we are not going to do anything that is not constitutional.”
Sounds hopeful. But I have this nagging feeling that Shannon knows damn well how unconstitutional this is. He just figured no one would find out until it was already built and no one would care afterwards.
I wonder if there’s any evidence to support that theory…
Surprise, surprise. It was a last-second addition.
“There was no mention of a Capitol chapel in budget discussions last session or in any subsequent discussion we’ve had with the House about its renovations,” said John Estus, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
Well, here, I’ll make this very easy for Shannon. The Oklahoma Constitution, which he clearly hasn’t read, says this in Article 2, Section 5:
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.
Problem solved. Remove the chapel. Replace it with something that represents all the people of the state, not just the religious ones.
I don’t have high hopes they’ll do the right thing. After all, this is the same state where the governor just denied spousal benefits to all members of the Oklahoma National Guard just so she could discriminate against gay ones. If it advances their religious agenda, these Republicans will do anything.