Written by Don Byrd
Religious liberty advocate and retired Baptist minister Bruce Prescott urged fellow Oklahomans to vote no on SQ790 in an op-ed published by Tulsa World over the weekend. That ballot referendum, which the Baptist Joint Committee has also opposed, would remove Article II, Section 5, a key religious liberty protection, from the state constitution. Language in that provision prohibits the government from using taxpayer money to fund religion, directly or indirectly.
Prescott writes movingly about the need to keep that protection in place. Here is an excerpt from his column:
At our country’s founding, Baptists and many other people of faith made the separation of church and state a priority, hoping to free themselves from compelled financial support for religion. Those fighting for this freedom were not motivated by animosity toward religion but rather a dedication to it. They were fighting to protect the freedom to decide for themselves, without governmental intrusion, which faith to support and follow. As Baptists and others have long recognized, a separation between government and religion works to the advantage of religion — independent funding means that religious groups can maintain their autonomy and protects religious principles and exercise from being controlled by, or corrupted by, the government.
. . . Our state Constitution . . . ensur[es] (through provisions like Article II, Section 5) that no Oklahoman has to support, directly or indirectly, a religion to which they do not adhere.
Read the whole thing.
The separation of church and state, as the BJC likes to say, is good for both. Protecting taxpayers and religions alike from the dangers to religious liberty of government funding is a good way to enforce that institutional separation. It should be celebrated not removed.
Oklahomans vote on SQ 790 Tuesday, November 8.