Purple Prose Aside, Oklahoma Did Not Limit Marriage to People of Faith

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

My former colleague, Representative Todd Russ, recently passed a piece of legislation, HB 1125 that would move issuance of Oklahoma marriage licenses from court clerks to clergy or judges.

Under Oklahoma law as it presently stands, court clerks, who are elected officials, issue marriage licenses.

I think that the bill is a response to lawsuits against court clerks around the country who have not issued marriage licenses for gay marriage due to their religious belief. It appears to be an attempt to remove that pressure from court clerks. According to both the author and representatives who opposed the bill, court clerks have not objected to the legislation.

During floor debate, Democratic Leader Scott Inman raised the question of whether or not the bill would, as an unintended consequence, open the door for “marriage” of any type, including group marriage, polygamy, marriage between humans and animals, etc. Rep Russ answered that HB 1125 does not change regulations as to what constitutes legal marriage.

I think that Representative Russ made an attempt to deal with a problem. I don’t think that this piece of legislation does what he hopes. It has huge holes in it. It also transfers the potential for court challenges and judicial pressure from court clerks to the clergy.

There is no definition of clergy in the bill. This piece of legislation, by creating a whole new legal responsibility for clergy, needs a definition for what constitutes clergy that is specific to the legislation.

As it stands now, the only requirement in the law is that the clergy be “ordained.” That leaves the definition of what constitutes clergy for the purposes of performing this government function entirely in the hands of the religious body of which they are a part.

Since “ordained” is not defined in the bill either, any person could, for the purposes of this law, “ordain” themselves. I am aware that there are definitions in other places in the statutes. But since this creates a new kind of clergy that is part government functionary and part religious leader, a new definition is called for.

Another serious problem with the legislation is that it does not define what relationship the clergy would hold vis a vis the government. Are they now government officials, rather than clergy? That is a legitimate question, since they are now charged with enforcing state law concerning marriage so far as it pertains to the issuance of marriage licenses.

America has kept the issuance of marriage licenses and the definition of marriage as a legal construct entirely under the auspices of the government for over 200 years. The idea of transferring this to clergy is a radical change with many unintended consequences.

One unintended consequence would be the massive impact that this change would have on arguments concerning religious freedom. I believe strongly that clergy should not be government officials by virtue of their ordination. If we make them that, we also make them subject to the same oversight and control as any other government functionary.

Statutes that make all ordained clergy function as government opens clergy and faith to government regulation. It transfer the court challenges and pressure being brought against court clerks to clergy. It pierces the protected legal status that clergy holds now.

This legislation, which I think is a good-faith attempt to deal with a serious problem, will, in a few years, create other problems concerning attempts to limit religious freedom that will be exceedingly grave. It has the potential to create a religious freedom train wreck.

HB 1125 has been the object of quite a bit of purple prose, both in the mainstream press and in the blogosphere. This includes claims that Oklahoma has done away with marriage licenses, or that the bill would limit marriage to people of faith. 

These claims are not accurate. The bill changes how marriage licenses are issued. It does not do away with them. Any one who wants to get legally married in Oklahoma today would be able to get legally married under this bill if it becomes law.

I’m not sure how to handle the problems we are now facing as a result of the nihilism that is being applied to family law in this country. If I was still a legislator, I would have voted against this particular bill for the reasons I give above.

My greatest concern about the bill is that it would change the legal status of clergy and that would create the means for successfully attacking religious freedom in the future. It does not matter if the bill labels clergy government functionaries or not. If this bill becomes law, that is the function they will be performing.

I have no doubt that future civil challenges would use this law to seek to define clergy as government functionaries through the courts. This law creates a means by which clergy can be subjected to government regulation as civil authorities.

In today’s political climate, that would be a disaster for religious freedom in this country. Groups have been attempting to control what clergy preaches for decades. This law hands them the means to do that. It would also open the doorway for legitimate court challenges requiring clergy to perform gay marriages (and other inventive forms of “marriage”) even if it violates the teachings of their faith.

You can read the version of the bill that passed the House here.

 

Money Talks, Facts Walk in Oklahoma’s Three Horse Economy.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kool Cats Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsrcool/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kool Cats Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsrcool/

Oklahoma has a three-horse economy. Here it is in three words:

Agriculture.

Military bases.

Oil.

If you closed down those military bases and lowered the price of crude, Oklahoma’s three horse economy would dry up and blow away like a tumbleweed, bouncing before the wind.

Oklahoma has been riding the crest of an oil boom for years now. This has led to policy decisions at the capitol which will be disastrous for Oklahoma’s people in the long run. The reason they will be disastrous is that these decisions were based on the fantasy that Oklahoma’s current prosperity is a reflection of the genius of lawmakers and their half-brained policy decisions rather than the price of the black gold that comes out of Oklahoma’s red dirt.

Okies don’t like things that hurt the oil industry because the oil industry is the plate that everyone in the state feeds off of in one way or another. Not everyone is black gold rich. But just about every paycheck that gets cashed is related in some way to agriculture, military bases or oil.

You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. The dumbest dog in the kennel knows that.

That’s the reason why the Oklahoma State Geological Survey has been oh-so-quiet about the cause of all those confounding earthquakes that have been shake-rattle-and-rolling the state in recent years. There’s a link between the broken glass from those quakes and the hand that feeds us. In fact, it appears that the hand that feeds us is also the hand that is rocking the earth we stand on.

There seems to be a link between all these Okie earthquakes and fracking. Fracking is a practice of the oil industry, one that makes it more profitable and that adds $$$ to Oklahoma’s money bins, both private and public. We’ve got an oil boom and an earthquake boom and it appears that one of them is causing the other. It also seems that the industry that puts food on our collective table and jingle-jangle in our pockets is rocking and rolling the foundations on which our homes are built.

I’ve read concerns that all these little quakes are building up to a big boy that will really do damage. If that happens, Oklahoma will be in the national news again. It seems that we never get noticed unless we are bombed, beheaded or blown away. If we end up rubble-ized by an earthquake shakedown, I imagine we’ll get noticed again.

A couple of years ago after one of our killer tornadoes, the national media wondered why Okies don’t build more storm shelters. They raised the legitimate question as to why we don’t have storm shelters in our schools. The legislature was unable to address these significant concerns that relate to the public health and safety because of pressure from the Chamber of Commerce, who, as anyone who knows anything about Oklahoma politics is aware, runs Oklahoma state government.

Now, it appears that somebody (any guesses who???) has been deep-sixing scientific data linking our earthquake boom (pun intended) to our oilies. I don’t need a psychic to know who’s going to win this argument.

When you’ve got a three-horse economy, you don’t shoot one of the horses.

From Newsweek:

For years, the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) avoided acknowledging that Oklahoma’s dramatic increase in earthquakes had anything to do with the oil and gas industry, even while federal scientists fully acknowledged the link.

According to new reporting from EnergyWire, OGS’s reluctance to point fingers may have been due to the industry itself.

In 2012, U.S. Geological Survey officials said that a step in the hydraulic fracturing process—the disposal of vast volumes of salty, chemical-laced wastewater by injecting it deep into the ground—was related to the massive spike in Oklahoma earthquakes. OGS, however, responded by criticizing their “rush to judgment.”

“Since early 2010 we have recognized the potential for the Jones earthquake swarm to be due to the Hunton dewatering [oil and gas project],” Austin Holland, an OGS seismologist wrote to USGS science adviser Bill Leith in 2013, according to documents obtained by EnergyWire. “But until we can demonstrate that scientifically or not we were not going to discuss that publicly.”

According to EnergyWire, Holland was called into meetings with his boss, University of Oklahoma President David Boren, and oil executives, to discuss the link.

From StateImpact:

Despite long-held suspicions that the state’s earthquake surge was linked to oil and gas activity, the Oklahoma Geological Survey stayed silent amid pressure from oil company executives, EnergyWire reports.

For this and other interviews, State Seismologist Austin Holland acknowledges “intense personal interest” from energy company executives, but told reporter Mike Soraghan it never affected his scientific findings:

But Holland and OGS have been the voice of skepticism in the scientific community about connections between oil production activities and the hundreds of earthquakes that have shaken the state.

From grist:

Oklahoma has been experiencing an earthquake boom in recent years. In 2014, the state had 585 quakes of at least magnitude 3. Up through 2008, it averaged only three quakes of that strength each year. Something odd is happening.

But scientists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey have downplayed a possible connection between increasing fracking in the state and the increasing number of tremors. Even as other states (Ohio, for example) quickly put two and two together and shut down some drilling operations that were to blame, OGS scientists said that more research was needed before their state took similar steps.

Now, though, emails obtained by EnergyWire reporter Mike Soraghan reveal that the University of Oklahoma and its oil industry funders were putting pressure on OGS scientists to downplay the connection between earthquakes and the injection of fracking wastewater underground. In 2013, a preliminary OGS report noted possible correlation between the two, and OGS signed on to a statement by the U.S. Geological Survey that also noted such linkages.

 

Rep Kern Gets Ban on Bans of Gay Conversion Therapy Out of Committee

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern got her bill banning bans on gay conversion therapy out of committee.

HB 1598 passed without debate on a unanimous vote after a committee substitute was accepted, also on a unanimous vote.

It now goes to the full House, where it may or may not come to a vote. For an explanation of the process, go here.

If it does come to a vote, we may get to see some entertaining debate.

From The Daily Oklahoman:

A bill that seeks to protect the practice of gay conversion counseling passed out of an Oklahoma House committee Tuesday.

House Bill 1598, which now goes to the full House, says the state will not prohibit or restrict counseling intended to rid people of attraction to those of their own gender. It also seeks to protect parents who want such counseling for their children.

Nothing prevents this type of counseling now, but Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said her bill is needed because the practice is under attack legislatively in other states.

“All across the nation, bills are being introduced to ban parents from having the right to take their children for counseling if they are struggling with same-sex attractions,” Kern said. “As you know, we do lots of bills that are pre-emptive, so this is pre-emptive to make sure that parental rights are upheld.”

Gay rights advocates and others vehemently opposed the bill, saying conversion therapy has been harmful to children, including leading to anxiety, depression, shame, guilt and, potentially, drug abuse and suicide.

Okies Receive This Much Snow …

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved. 

… and IT’S A SNOW DAY!!!

The school’s are closed, hubby is home from work and we’re cooking a turkey.

You Yankees don’t know the first thing about how to do cold weather.

Group Raises Funds to Open Abortion Clinic in Oklahoma.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by kambodza https://www.flickr.com/photos/49507393@N08/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by kambodza https://www.flickr.com/photos/49507393@N08/

Somebody, somewhere decided that Oklahoma is “underserved” by abortionists.

That’s what they think the women of Oklahoma need: More abortionists.

Personally, I can think of a whole slate of things the women of Oklahoma need more than they need another abortionist. I know a lot of Oklahoma women who’ve had abortions. Wish they hadn’t, but they did. Not one of them — not one — had any problem obtaining an abortion because of a lack of abortionists.

However, Trust Women, a group that may or may not open clinics around the country, has targeted Oklahoma for a fund-raising drive to open another abortion clinic. I’m honestly not sure how legit this organization is. They may be everything they say they are. I just don’t know.

How many clinics have they actually opened? That’s a good starter question for people to ask before donating money to them.

According to their web site, they are “partnering” with the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood of Central OK, Ok Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and are the Cofounder of Take Root at Oklahoma University.

Planned Parenthood has deep pockets. They also have a network that is wired in to community organizations such as the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and other public decision makers and influencers.

However, in terms of numbers, these organizations are like a small, highly incestuous, family. Their strength is in networking and organizing, not numbers.

I find this whole thing a bit disgusting. Not only does this attack on life disgust me, but I am a feminist and it disgusts me that this is what feminism has devolved down to. It wouldn’t take half a brain to see that what the women of Oklahoma need is something a lot different from more abortionists.

Time will tell if this group is just talk or if there’s beef in the sandwich. One thing I’m already sure of: They aren’t doing work that addresses the real needs of Oklahoma women.

Suspect Arrested for Driving Car into Oklahoma Ten Commandment Monument

2D9882938-131208-ten-commandments-hmed-427p.nbcnews-ux-640-480.jpgLaw enforcement has arrested a man who allegedly drove his vehicle into the Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma state Capitol grounds last night.

The monument has been the subject of attacks from all over the country, including court challenges and an attempt by satanists to place a statue of satan beside it.

According to KOCO.com, someone drove their car into the monument at around 9pm Thursday, smashing the monument to pieces. They then left their car at the site. The suspect in custody has evidently confessed to doing this.

He also is said to have told law enforcement officials that he urinated on the Ten Commandments Monument before running into it with his vehicle. He says that “Satan told him to do it.

The suspect also reportedly spit on a photo of President Obama and said that he would kill our President.

The Oklahoma ACLU has issued a statement saying that they are “outraged” by the incident.

From KOCO.com:

OKLAHOMA CITY —The Secret Service has arrested an individual for allegedly driving into the Ten Commandments monument near the State Capitol building.

Officials say someone drove their car into monument Thursday night, smashing it to pieces. The suspect reportedly made vague threats at the Oklahoma City Federal Building today and was taken into custody. His name has not yet been released.

The suspect said Satan told him to do it, Secret Service officials said. He also reportedly said he would kill President Obama and spit on a photo of Obama. The suspect also allegedly admitted that he urinated on the Ten Commandments monument before running it over.

 

 

The Crazy People File

 

Note: I published this post a few years’ back. It seemed apt to republish it today. 

 

“Crazy People”

The folder with this name sits on my hard drive.

Whenever I get an email that merits the title, I drag it into the “Crazy People” file. After 16 years in public office, the file has swollen to gigs of nutty emails that most likely would embarrass their senders if they read them today.

I have a theory that people don’t know how they sound in the emails they send to elected officials. They forget that other people are on the opposite end of these nasty diatribes; that they read them, react to them and file them away.

Several years ago, members of the Oklahoma House were spending what seemed like an endless day on the House floor. We were hearing one bill after another. Since it was close to the end of session, we’d voted on all these bills many times before; in committee, in the full House the first time, then again in the full House when they came back from the Senate, and now, in the full House again after they came out of conference committee.

We spend a lot of time together in the House of Representatives, kind of like people locked on a ship that’s adrift at sea. We’d heard each other’s speeches on these bills until we could all recite them together.

On that day, we were tired, over-stimulated and stressed; all combined with an almost numbing boredom. It gets like that late in every legislative session.

Mainly due to the boredom, we started talking about the emails we get. Now there are certain people who evidently get up every morning and fire off a nasty email to all the members of the legislature before breakfast, kind of like some people go to daily mass and others run on their treadmill. Their names and the names they call us become familiar to all of us. We started trying to figure out whose district these emailers were from.

Finally, I emailed the one who we all felt was the most flamboyant and asked what part of the state he lived in. Nobody answers these kinds of emails, and I think it was the first time any of us had clicked “reply” on one of his. The person responded and asked why I wanted to know. I said that we’d been talking about him and were wondering whose district he lived in.

If it’s possible to sound abashed in an email, this person did. I really don’t think he realized that people read the stuff he was sending. In all the years since, he has never sent another blanket email to the Oklahoma House.

Of course, this person, hateful and goofy-sounding as his emails were, did not rise to the level that gets someone into the “Crazy People” file. It takes a special kind of venom, and usually a couple of threats, to land there.

The point I’m making is if you’re writing your legislator in support of Christian values, remember that someone will read what you send. Do your best to sound like a follower of Christ and not an escapee from a wingnut radio talk show. You can make your point just as well without calling people names or attacking their intelligence, beliefs, children, parentage or appearance.

Remember: When you say your are a Christian, other people judge Christ by you. Don’t be a negative witness for Christ just because you think it’s clever and witty to degrade other people with your speech. Civility will not only make you a better witness for Christ, it will make you more persuasive about the positions you are advocating.

It can also keep you out of the “Crazy People” file.

Tenth Circuit Rules Okies Can Get Gay Married

 

The tenth circuit has upheld a lower court ruling striking down Oklahoma’s Constitutional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

I am guessing that Oklahoma will take this to the Supremes.

it should be interesting to see if the Supreme Court agrees to hear this and, if they do, how they rule.

If they intended to destroy marriage by judicial fiat and not put their hands directly on it, they’ve succeeded brilliantly. However, if they really meant that marriage is not a federal issue and that the states should decide for themselves, they need to do some fine-tuning.

Either way, I am convinced that we are in for a long fight, probably a generational fight. But we will win in the long run. Of that I have no doubt.

To read the decision, go here.

Told Ya This was Gonna Happen

Whenever Oklahoma gets on the national news, it’s always something bad. We pretty much get ignored unless we are hit with a massive tragedy or some Okie manages to make a real mess of one sort of the other.

Our latest foray into national attention is no exception.

Oklahoma has developed real problems executing people. Between lawsuits and botched executions, we’ve shown ourselves to be downright incompetent in the area of administering the death penalty. All this led to the second kind of national attention we usually get, which is to say a derisive critique.

This situation came about because of the zealous fight put up by attorneys for the two men slated for execution by the State of Oklahoma this year. After exhausting years of appeals, the attorneys switched from defense to offense. The object of their attack was the method of execution itself. They managed to intimidate the drug companies that supply drugs that are used in executions to the point that the state had problems getting enough drugs to kill someone.

When it came time to execute one of the two men, the prisoner — who had a history of assaulting and trying to kill people while in prison, particularly guards — resisted being moved from his cell. The guards had to taser him. Maybe the aftereffects of that hit with electricity was why things went so awry later.

All I know for sure is that the doctor couldn’t find a vein to use to administer the drugs and finally had to put the needle in the prisoner’s groin. According to news reports, the needle “blew” the vein, which led to a thoroughly botched execution. The prisoner ultimately died, but it was 45 minutes later, after the doctor stopped the execution.

The governor has issued a stay until next November for the other prisoner.

I wrote at the time that the attorneys for these two men needed to consider carefully what they were doing. I knew that Oklahoma has the laws on the books to use a firing squad as a means of execution. I also knew that the legislative will was to do exactly that.

Now, my colleague, Representative Mike Christian, wants to conduct hearings on what process would be necessary to switch to death by firing squad as the preferred method of execution in Oklahoma. Representative Christian, who is a retired Highway Patrolman and fellow Southsider, has said that he would be fine with beheading or feeding prisoners to the lions as methods of execution. In my opinion, that pretty much sums up the prevailing attitude among the people I worked with.

I guess I get to say I told you so.

I don’t want to behave like a seeress, but with me gone, the number of legislators who will be voting against the death penalty next year just dropped by one. Not that we had enough votes between us to matter. Legislators who oppose the death penalty in Oklahoma are a tiny group. If it comes to a vote, the chances of legislation passing that would enable the use of firing squads in Oklahoma is just about 100%. And that’s assuming that legislation is even necessary. Oklahoma already has this means of execution on the books.

I understand that the attorney for a death row inmate operates from the idea that any delay is a good delay. If they can buy their client one day, they’ll do it. But this particular delay may not play out to be all that pleasant for those who will be executed.

I’ve never seen an execution, and hope sincerely that I never have to. But people who have seen executions by lethal injection tell me that it looks painless for the prisoner. No one can say that for other means of execution. They may be quick, but they don’t look painless.

Killing people is grisly business. Lethal injection is certainly the most painless way we’ve found to do it. As I’ve said repeatedly, I do not favor the death penalty except in rare situations that almost never, and shouldn’t ever, arise in America. However, I am aware that I am an outlier on this.

Most people in this country, and certainly most people in Oklahoma, favor the death penalty. The feeling runs so strong that even the Supreme Court had to overturn itself back in the 1970s when it ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Of course, the Supreme Court didn’t say it was overturning itself. But that’s what it did.

Americans want the death penalty. Not many elected officials are going to argue with them about it. As it turns out, not many judges will, either.

If death row inmates had the wherewithal to donate millions to political campaigns, that would change in a heartbeat. You’d suddenly see elected officials all over this country developing a tender conscience about the death penalty. But people on death row are almost always poor, which eliminates that possibility.

So that’s where we stand. All I can do is repeat one more time: I told ya this was gonna happen.

Satanists Reveal Uber Creepy Monument They Want to Place on Oklahoma’s Capitol Grounds

It’s a compliment in a way.

Satanists aren’t trying to put monuments to their master in front of the Capitol Building in Washington.

No need.

Evidently, the people they want to go head to head with live in little ole Oklahoma.

Who would ever have thought that Oklahoma would be deemed important enough in the culture wars for this honor? I guess somebody who walks on the dark side thinks we need our little light covered up a bit.

Whatever their reasoning, members of the Satanic Temple announced a fund-raising drive to place a statue of Satan on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds a few months ago. Their stated goal was to raise $20,000, but the times being what they are, $30,000 came rolling in for this worthy project.

Now, the instigators of this brain whatever have released photos of the statue paying homage to Satan that they want to place on Oklahoma’s capitol grounds.

It is, as we say in these parts, a dandy.

I’m not up on my satanism, but what I see is an obelisk-looking plank with a pentagram atop standing next to a statue of His Lordship, the Prince of the Dark Realm — or is that Baphomet?? This dude comes complete with a ram’s head with what looks like two horns and a tree growing out of the top of it. The ram’s head sits on the shoulders of a buff human body. Two 1950s-style children are staring worshipfully up at this lovable fellow while he holds one hand aloft in what appears to be a two-fingered version of the Boy Scout salute.

This deal is one fine piece of satanic kitsch.

Of course, the ACLU has our capitol grounds all tied up in a court challenge to a law we passed a few years back, placing a plaque with the Ten Commandments on it out there on the lawn. After all, plaques with the Ten Commandments are scary, right? I mean, it endangers all our freedoms to put something like that right out in public.

This ACLU zealotry for protecting innocents from the Ten Commandments is bad luck for the satanists. It appears they’re going to have a long wait before their artwork — or any new artwork — is even eligible to be considered for placement on the Capitol grounds. Then, if they don’t get what they want — and I can see a valid case for denying them based entirely on the artistic merits of this thing — I imagine they’ll head off to court.

In the meantime, I would like to raise one small question. Why would anybody worship Satan? Atheism, I can see. I mean, I don’t agree with it, but I can see where its adherents are coming from. But to worship an entity who is well known for creating every kind of misery there is, and who enjoys our pain and suffering and feeds off it, well, if you’ll pardon me for saying so, that’s not too bright.

It’s right up there with drinking arsenic because you like the taste of sweet things.

Be that as it may, we do have ourselves a bit of really creepy Satanic art to peruse while we’re waiting for the next call in this little doh-si-doh.

If the ACLU wins, and the Ten Commandments are banned from the Capitol lawn, then I suppose that leaves the Satanists with an expensive piece of ugly statuary to dispose of. If, on the other hand, the state wins (unlike others around the country, our attorney general actually defends state laws in court) then it’s up to the arts committee to work out for themselves if this thing has artistic merit, or if it’s just a laughable eyesore.

After that, I expect we’ll be off to court again.

Yeehaw!!

Grab your partners and promenade right.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X