Written by Don Byrd
Tomorrow, Oklahoma voters will decide on State Question 790, which would remove a key provision from the state constitution barring taxpayer funds from aiding religion. The Baptist Joint Committee has previously expressed its concerns about this ballot measure; now, in a letter to Oklahoma supporters, BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman urges a vote of No.
Here is that message in full:
On November 8, 2016, Oklahoma voters will vote on State Question 790 (SQ 790), a misguided attempt to promote Christianity through government action.
For 80 years, the BJC has been dedicated to protecting religious liberty for all, and we are well aware of the important role state constitutions have in this struggle. We are writing to encourage you to vote no on SQ 790.
SQ 790 seeks to delete an important pro-religious liberty provision from the Oklahoma Constitution. Article II, section 5 has been in place for more than 100 years and prohibits the government from using state money or property to support any religion. Writers of the Oklahoma Constitution were particularly concerned about state-financed religion in light of the territory’s history of government-funded religious schools forcibly converting Native American schoolchildren. While the threats of government funding to religion have changed through the years, history teaches us that when the government funds religion, religion suffers. Removing this constitutional provision threatens many legal protections that churches and other religious organizations currently enjoy.
This longstanding provision, like similar provisions in more than 30 other states, protects against government interference with or sponsorship of religion. Supporters of SQ 790 mistakenly argue that removing this constitutional provision will permit the return of a Ten Commandments monument to the grounds of the state Capitol. They overlook the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts across the country have held that similar monuments violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The truth is that SQ 790 does not accomplish its intended purpose and threatens important religious liberty safeguards currently in place. True religion flourishes when it is independent from the state. While Christians, Jews, and others often promote the teachings of the Ten Commandments, we should not rely on the government to do it for us. Oklahomans should reject this move toward blending the institutions of church and state and vote no on SQ 790.
Pass this message on to friends and family in Oklahoma!
Come back tomorrow evening for results.