Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shout-Out for Successful Legislative Preview & Latest Action on Religion in Okla Public Schools


Readers,

Until we can get our Google Group going with your responses to the invitation, I'm taking the liberty of whetting your appetite for religious separation by posting two messages from our OKC president, Mike Fuller, and former executive secretary, Jim Huff.

1) Mike Fuller gives a thanks to those who attended and a shout-out to those who helped make our first Legislative Preview at the Senate chamber a success.

2) Jim Huff gives an update on the actions being taken in regard to Sen. Tom Ivester's bill, SB 1338 concerning the teaching of religious classes in Oklahoma Public Schools. It's in the safe-to-open attachment with this email.

Best wishes,

James Nimmo, communications chair/website moderator



1) ************************
Message from Mike Fuller, chair of OK AU, www.okau.org

By all accounts, our first ever "Legislative Preview Forum" was a resounding success. We had 44 very enthusiastic people in attendance and the discussion was very spirited and informative. In preparing for this event, we identified at least 26 bills and/or resolutions that we thought warranted scrutiny from from a church/state separation point of view. There were 3 bills dealing with teaching about the bible in public schools, no fewer than 8 dealing with abortion, 5 dealing with various schemes to siphon off tax money for private (religious) schools, 7 dealing with marriage and divorce and numerous miscellaneous bills on everything from changing the State Motto to "Oklahoma- In God We Trust!" to an embryo adoption bill.

Obviously, due to time limitations, we were not able to cover each of these bills. We kicked the Forum off with the 3 "Bible" bills (SB 1338, HB 2938 and HB 2938), presented by Tamya Cox from the local ACLU, followed by the "Freedom of Conscience bills (SB 1891 and HB 3110) presented by yours truly. Next up was the "Motto" bill (SR 56), presented by our Treasurer, Damion Reinhardt, followed by our VP Nick Singer presenting one of the 5 school bills. Wrapping up bill discussion was our Communications Committee Chair, Jim Nimmo with a discussion of HB 3408 about criminalizing unauthorized marriages. By that time, we just had 30 minutes left in the program so Nick Singer and our Secretary Jeanette Schreiber led the discussion on lobbying congress.

I want to thank everyone mentioned above, plus Dena Sher from National AU for providing us with great analysis and talking points on the various bills, Wanda Stapleton and Rob Abiera for their invaluable help in tracking church/state bills, and Darla Sheldon for helping to advertise this event. Without their help, this event would not have been possible. If anyone would like to learn more about the bills which were discussed at this event, plus those that weren't, check out the two links below.

Mike Fuller
President, OKAU
www.okau.org

2)***********
Advocates, Friends and Concerned Oklahomans,

This is a “shotgun” notice to as many people as possible. SB 1338 (Instructing the State Department of Education to develop guidelines and materials for Bible related classes in Public Schools) is moving pretty fast through the legislative committee process.

I believe the intent of the Bill has merit. Oklahoma does need guidelines from the State Department of Education that have been approved by the State Attorney General’s office to meet national and state constitutional requirements. BUT, IT IS NOT A PERFECT BILL. Several amendments would make it better.

1. There must be a requirement that the teacher is a CERTIFIED Oklahoma teacher.
2. The Teacher must be trained BEFORE the class instruction begins…NOT during the time the class is being taught.
3. The Bible MUST NOT BE the only text source used in the class.
4. The OTHER SOURCES must discuss the history of how the Bible Books came to be canonized (official). They did not fall from the sky in book form with “red letter” editions.
5. Following the State Department’s Guidelines and Materials (APPROVED BY the state Textbook committee), the individual district and the teacher conducting the class develop the SYLLABUS for the class.

Look the bill up at www.lsb.state.ok.us/. You can also locate Senator Ivester’ and other senator’s contact information at the same site.

Attached is the 2007 handout that I used to raise these issues with legislators during that session. At that time the proposed bill never got out of committee. Things may be different this time.

A visit to Sen. Ivester’s office with your written concerns, a brief letter with your concerns or an email message describing your concerns would all be useful in attempting to improve the bill. Also, messages to your own senator would alert them to the needed changes.

Jim Huff

Contact information for Sen. Ivester--
Capitol Address
Senator Tom Ivester
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Rm. 529A
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
(405) 521-5545
ivester@oksenate.gov
Executive Assistant: Pam McLerran

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