I’m going to switch gears for a few minutes and talk about something that, at first glance, seems unrelated to education.
I am a pastor’s wife. I am a cradle Methodist. I am a Christian.
And I stand AGAINST state question 790.
If you’re unfamiliar with SQ790, it is a question to repeal the “Blaine Amendment”. If SQ790 passes, it would strike language from our constitution that expressly prohibits public money from being spent for religious purposes.
Proponents of SQ790 claim it is about restoring the Ten Commandments monument to the state capitol. Currently, it resides at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, less than a mile from the Capitol lawn.
But I’m afraid it’s about so much more than that. Changing our constitution to allow public tax dollars to be spent for religious purposes would bring about two consequences that disturb me. First of all, it would make us vulnerable to costly litigation as we would be (once again) attempting to establish a law at the state level that is clearly unconstitutional at the national level. Secondly, this would open the door to vouchers, a long-time agenda of right-wing conservatives that allows education funding to be siphoned off to for-profit charter and private schools, further crippling already financially strapped public schools.
Proponents of SQ790 claim it is an attempt to protect religious liberty:
“Like the ‘Jim Crow’ laws that promoted segregation, the Blaine Amendment is a discriminatory provision in our Constitution that flies in the face of many of the Oklahoma values we cherish – love of neighbor, reverence for humanity and respect for the right to express religious freedom.”
~U.S. Senator James Lankford and Lt. Governor of Oklahoma Todd Lamb
Friends, if you are comparing the “persecution” of American Christians in the buckle of the Bible Belt to the persecution of African Americans in pre-1964 America (and even today), then you are clearly delusional. If you assign equal weight to being unable to blast a prayer over the loudspeaker before Friday night football to black citizens being denied basic civil rights and murdered, then you need to seriously consider the true definition of “persecution”.
In what way does the absence of a ten commandments monument from the capitol keep you from practicing its tenets?
Furthermore, if you believe in God and think God is not present in public schools because we don’t force students to pray or attend chapel, then you need to take a good long look at what kids and teachers are doing in our schools.
Last year, the students at my school raised over $50,000 for a community family battling childhood cancer.
The second week of this school year, the students raised over $6000 for the Susan G. Komen foundation. And perhaps more profound, they honored our principal with a standing ovation at that assembly, which happened to be on the day she completed her final radiation treatment for breast cancer.
Students in our leadership class spend time tutoring at our surrounding elementary schools. Students in our Key Club and National Honor Society complete community service projects. My students show great compassion for those who are different from them. They celebrate each other. They comfort each other. They challenge each other. They affirm each other.
If you are a Christian, then you already know Christ’s greatest commandment: Love God and love your neighbor. And by committing to the latter, we are fulfilling the former. If we are practicing radical hospitality and love, God is here. No “Bible-thumping” necessary. In fact, you don’t have to open a Bible or even quote a scripture to fulfill God’s calling to love and serve your fellow man. Do you not believe if you go out of your way to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the needy that God will show up and speak for God’s self?
God is very much alive in the spirit of service and love that exists in our schools today. I firmly believe it.
Which makes me question the true motives of those who stand behind SQ790. At best, it’s unnecessary. We already have religious liberty. And at worst, it’s a smokescreen for some other agenda, which I don’t trust.