Thursday, December 29, 2011

Begin the New Year a Step Ahead of the Legislature

Some of our audience from 2011
Add caption
Americans United for Separation of Church & State
OKC Chapter

Begin the New Year a Step Ahead of the Legislature
Americans United for Separation of Church & State

3rd Legislative Preview

Saturday, January 28, 2012
Senate Chamber, Oklahoma Capitol Building
2300 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City

10:00am to noon
Free, open to the public

Use the WEST entrance
Ample free parking

Bills introduced for the 2012 legislative session that could interfere with First Amendment freedom of religion that could encumber the rights of others will be presented in a civil open discussion with participation from the audience encouraged.

Contact: James Nimmo, 405-843-3651
james.nimmo@gmail.com
www.okau.org
2406 NW 59th St
Oklahoma City, OK 73112-7348
To quote James Madison, "Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute threepence only of his property for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Distortion Historian David Barton encroaching into Oklahoma curriculum



complete story here: http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-13561-shaping-social-studies.html

clip--
Barton’s background

At press time, Barton had not returned calls seeking comment for this story, and he did not attend the committee’s most recent meeting on Nov. 9, although he has attended previous meetings.
Barton is often cited and promoted by high-profile conservative personalities such as Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee. He has stated that separation of church and state is “a myth,” sits on the board of directors for the Providence Foundation, an organization with the mission to “train and network leaders to transform their culture for Christ.”
Barton, who served as vice chair of the Texas Republican Party, has been characterized in the past as a “biased amateur who cherry-picks quotes from history and the Bible,” according to one 2011 New York Times profile. He also was involved in the Texas school curriculum controversy in 2010, where he and others worked to purge important civil rights leaders such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall, as well as downplay the role of Martin Luther King Jr.
“Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society,” Barton has reportedly said.
Department of Education spokesman Damon Gardenhire said Barresi reached out to educators and others to be part of the committee, and to Barton because of her respect for him.
“Barresi asked David Barton to participate because he has been dedicated to the pursuit of history and the lessons we can learn from it. The many participants in the 65-member committee offer a range of backgrounds to round out their work,” he said.

Monday, November 14, 2011

20 Founding Father quotes against America being a Christian Nation

graphic credit: google.com

Moderator's note: Readers will remember hearing of the association of Roger Barton and GOPer Rep Sally Kern with a group named Wall Builders. (http://www.wallbuilders.com/) Mr. Barton's historical specialty is inventing quotes from America's early politicians and writers but when questioned as to the authenticity of the quotes we find the quotes are apocryphal or taken out of context.

Dr. Bruce Prescott, a recent national board member of AU, has an article on his Mainstream Baptist website outlining the deception Mr. Barton is noted for using.

Separation of religious internecine dogma from our American political process improves the quality of government.

One example is the intrusion of religion in the medical offices of the doctors of pregnant women. The legislatures of Oklahoma and some other states have begun practicing ob/gyn medicine without a license by requiring pregnant women considering abortion to submit to invasive procedures and misleading information that no reputable doctor would permit.

One technique the religious anti-choicers are using is the attempt to pass "personhood" amendments declaring a fertilized egg a fully-qualified citizen. Even Mississippi, a deeply conservative state, recently gave a determined NO vote to this anti-human intent to take away the right of privacy from pregnant women. The same attempt has failed twice in Colorado.

Below is an excerpt, with link, that provides some authentic quotes from the Framers of America's founding documents and speeches.

clip The separation of church and state is an issue that those in Washington debate just like co-workers do around the water-cooler or families around the dinner table. How much religion, if any, should be involved in government? When the 2nd "red scare" happened in the late 1940s until the late 1950s, Americans were scared that communism would overtake the country. The greatest example of this was Republican Senator, Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who drove home the paranoia that not only would communism take over the United States, but that many Americans were communist themselves. Of course this all proved to be false and forever known as "McCarthyism." One of the ways the government wanted to show that they were somehow above communism was their love for god. "In god we trust" was added to all paper currency in 1957 as well as adding "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.

Today, many conservative politicians and Christians around the country claim that the United States was founded as a "Christian Nation." These claims, however, are not based on factual information. While many of the Founding Fathers were Christians, others were not. Some believed in God, but held no religious preference and others had no belief in anything supernatural. Here are twenty quotes from the Founding Fathers and other great Americans that show that the United States was not founded as a "Christian Nation."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halting Harassment: Public School Efforts To Protect Students Run Into Religious Right Bullies

clip  --  Dan Savage, a syndicated sex-advice columnist who runs a campaign aimed to help gay teens, also blasted the Michigan law.

“It’s a law that specifically empowers students, teachers, administrators [and] principals to bully LGBT kids if they can point to a moral justification,” Savage told ABC News.com. “You have a right to your own religious beliefs. You don’t have a right to inflict your private moral judgments on those people in a place where you are a public servant and an employee of the state…. Michigan should be ashamed of itself.”

read more at:  http://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/halting-harassment-public-school-efforts-to-protect-students-run-into

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Government Neutrality Is Not "Anti-Religion"

Government Neutrality Is Not "Anti-Religion"
Understanding church-state separation.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/em/75869

This article illustrates what real anti-religion views would look like.

Compare it with a neutral POV.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Staunch Oklahoma Defender of Separation Receives Academic Honor

Dr. Hutchison has been given the "Jack Renner Distinguished Service to
Oklahoma Science Education Award" by the Oklahoma Science Teachers
Association!

Here's the announcement from the OSTA website.

2011 OSTA Awards – Jack Renner Distinquished Service to Oklahoma
Science Education Award

Dr. John W. “Jack” Renner taught science education at OU from
1962-1988, His work on the Learning Cycle in the 1970′s lead to its
use as foundation for the Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS)
and the Full Option Science System (FOSS). The Learning Cycle
approach and it’s underlying teaching philosophy of constructivism
shows itself today in the inquiry approach defined by the National
Science Education Standards (NSES) and the process skill development
required by our own Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS). Jack was
recognized for his contributions by NSTA with the Robert H. Carleton
Award, which annually recognizes one individual who has made
outstanding contributions to, and provided leadership in, science
education at the national level and to NSTA in particular. It is
NSTA’s highest honor. In like manner, the Jack Renner Award is OSTA’s
highest honor given each year to a person or organization in
recognition for significant contributions to science education in
Oklahoma.

This year, we honor Dr. Victor Hutchinson, George Lynn Cross Research
Professor emeritus for the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Hutchinson’s
list of accomplishments is long and varied. A retired Colonel in the
Army Reserve, a fellow in the American Academy for the Advancement of
Science, a member of the American Institute of Biological Sciences,
holder of leadership positions in the American Society of
Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, author or co-author for nearly 150
peer reviewed scientific papers, supervisor for 28 PhD’s … The list
goes on and on and Dr. Hutchinson has had a very full and active
career as a research scientist and University professor.

But our story goes back to the dark days of 1999 when members of the
state textbook committee attempted to introduce creationist textbook
disclaimers into any textbook used in Oklahoma that discussed
Evolution. I attended those hearings and so did Vic Hutchinson and
through his efforts and those of others the disclaimers did not make
it into law. But from that experience was born Oklahomans for
Excellence in Science Education, founded by Vic with a small group of
educators, scientists, theologians, laypersons, and persons interested
in maintaining the constitutional separation of church and state.
There have been political efforts every year since 1999 to inject
religion into public schools and diminish or prohibit the teaching of
evolution in Oklahoma science classrooms. And every attempt has been
met by Dr. Hutchinson and his colleagues in OESE. He is a tireless
advocate for quality science education in our public schools, a
regular representative on our behalf in the halls of the legislature,
and is a frequent speaker to school and civic groups as well as a
commentator on radio and television. He maintains the Oklahoma
Evolution listserv, and the OESE website has become a treasure-trove
of resources about evolution, evolution education, and science and
religion. OESE also sponsors a number of education efforts and by
leveraging grants and donations, has made a Teachers Evolution
Workshop available to Oklahoma teachers for each of the last six
years. His efforts in this realm have been recognized by the Oklahoma
Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, with
their Constitutional Heritage Award, by the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance
with their Award for Science Education and Anti-creationism Efforts,
the National Center for Science Education, Friend of Darwin Award and
now by the Oklahoma Science Teachers Association with the Jack Renner
Distinguished Service to Oklahoma Science Education Award – Bob Melton



http://www.oklahomascienceteachersassociation.org/?p=3258

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pulpit Freedom Sunday’ Is Stunt To Lure Churches Into Illegal Electioneering

Clergy Should Be Wary Of Religious Right Attempts To Politicize Churches, Says Americans United

September 28, 2011

‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday’ Is Stunt To Lure Churches Into Illegal Electioneering, Watchdog Group Says

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today called on the nation’s clergy to reject Religious Right attempts to turn houses of worship into centers for partisan politicking.

This Sunday (Oct. 2) the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is sponsoring “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an event in which evangelical pastors are urged to break the law by endorsing or opposing candidates as they conduct religious services.

“This is an appalling attempt by the Religious Right to turn houses of worship into houses of partisan politics,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Americans attend church for spiritual guidance, not to get a list of candidates to vote for on Election Day.

“I know the Religious Right would like to forge fundamentalist churches into a partisan political machine,” Lynn continued, “but the law doesn’t allow it, and the American people don’t want it.”

The ADF, a legal group founded by TV preachers, insists that pastors should have the right to endorse candidates from the pulpit. But Americans United points out that all non-profit groups in the 501(c)(3) category — whether religious or secular — are barred under federal tax law from using non-profit personnel or resources to intervene in elections.

AU’s Lynn noted that the American people do not support church electioneering. A recent study found that 73 percent of Americans agree that religious leaders should not intervene in elections.

Americans United sponsors Project Fair Play, a project that educates clergy and congregants about the requirements of federal tax law. Through Project Fair Play (www.projectfairplay.org), Americans United makes a variety of educational materials available that explain what houses of worship can and can’t do in the political arena.

In cases of flagrant violations of the law, Americans United reports offending religious institutions to the IRS.

“Church electioneering is illegal, and the people don’t support it,” Lynn remarked. “It’s time for the Religious Right to stop trying to drag churches into backroom politics.”

The Internal Revenue Service is charged with enforcing this tax law provision. Religious groups that have been either sanctioned or investigated include:

Christian Broadcasting Network, Virginia Beach, Va.: TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network was stripped of its tax-exempt status retroactively for the years 1986 and 1987 for supporting Robertson’s presidential bid. CBN was required to make a “significant payment” to the IRS, pledge to avoid partisan campaign activities in the future, place more outside directors on its board and implement other organizational and operational changes to ensure tax law compliance.

Old Time Gospel Hour, Lynchburg, Va.: The late Jerry Falwell’s TV ministry lost its tax-exempt status retroactively for the years 1986 and 1987 after a four-year IRS audit determined that the ministry had diverted money to a political action committee. The ministry agreed to pay the IRS $50,000 for those years and to change its organizational structure so that no future political campaign intervention activities would occur.

Church at Pierce Creek, Binghamton, N.Y.: This church lost its tax-exempt status after running newspaper ads in 1992 urging people not to vote for Bill Clinton. Assisted by attorneys with TV preacher Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, the church sued to get its exemption back but lost in federal court.

Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas: This prominent Texas church endured a three-year IRS audit after the church was reported to the federal tax agency for alleged involvement with a special project in 1996 designed to encourage members to attend a GOP precinct convention with the aim of electing certain individuals to local committees.

Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church, New York, N.Y.: This church was visited by IRS agents and its pastor, the Rev. Floyd Flake, was asked to sign documents stating that he would not intervene in election campaigns after he endorsed presidential candidate Al Gore from the pulpit in 2000.

Bill Keller Ministries/Live Prayer, St. Petersburg, Fla.: The founder of this ministry was contacted by the IRS, which sent him a list of detailed questions to answer about his political activity, after he issued a “devotional” on the ministry’s website in 2007 asserting that voting for Mitt Romney is the same as voting for Satan.

In addition, in 2006 the IRS issued a report stating that it examined 132 non-profits during the 2004 election cycle. The tax agency noted that “fewer than half” of the entities examined were churches and concluded that in many of the cases, significant violations of the law had occurred. Written warnings were issued in 55 cases.

In 2008, the IRS took the step of sending letters to officials in the national political parties, reminding them that houses of worship and other tax-exempt entities cannot endorse candidates.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Being Fair versus Being Righteous

graphic courtesy of www.toppun.com



John Loghry was recently elected president of the Oklahoma City chapter of American United for Separation of Church & State (www.okau.org, www.au.org), one of the more publicly active chapters in the country.

In his acceptance remarks to the membership Mr. Loghry spoke of the age-old idea of fairness in a society based on civil law and a diverse population:


"I think we may already live by this mantra, but I want to make it explicit: it is more important to be fair than to be right. The people we oppose are so convinced they are right—so convinced of their righteousness—that they feel no compulsion to be fair to those of us that do not share their convictions. This is not to say their convictions are not valid; but being unfair makes a person wrong, no matter how right he was before. We are coming up against communities that demand bias from their members and their representatives, and it is important to remember that it is sometimes dangerous for persons in religious communities to be fair—that is, failing to act in a heavy-handed way is often seen by the community as a betrayal. We will be working with people who are wedged between these two demands—the demand for bias from their religious communities and the demand for fairness by the AU. As we move forward into the next two years, I would like us to carry this idea with us—that it is better to be fair."



John holds two Master’s degrees, one in Clinical Psychology from the Fuller Seminary School of Psychology, and one in Depth (or Deep) Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and is completing a PhD in Depth Psychology.

His dissertation work is focused on artificial intelligence and its potential to critique and advance epistemological frames. He is a member of AOK (the Atheists of Oklahoma) and the Jungian Society for Scholarly Studies. His research interest is the psychology of religion, specifically what underlying factors cause certain religious behaviors, and he will be presenting a paper on this subject at a meeting of AOK in October.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Alabama Town’s ‘Jesus Or Jail’ Policy Violates The Constitution, Americans United Says

Bay Minette May Not Force Offenders To Choose Between Going To Jail Or Going To Church, Says Church-State Watchdog

-------------------------------------------------------------

September 26, 2011

Bay Minette May Not Force Offenders To Choose Between Going To Jail Or Going To Church, Says Church-State Watchdog

Officials in Bay Minette, Ala., have crossed a constitutional line by creating a program that allows low-level offenders to choose between fines and jail or going to church for a year, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“I have just two words for this ill-considered scheme: blatantly unconstitutional,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Government simply can’t put people in a position where their only choice is Jesus or jail.”

Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland says 56 churches have agreed to take part in the program, dubbed “Operation Restore Our Community.” Rowland says the plan is legal because no one is forced to go to church – they can choose fines or incarceration instead.

Americans United says Bay Minette is offering no real choice at all and that the scheme will clearly have the effect of funneling people into houses of worship.

In a letter to Rowland and Mayor Jamie Tillery sent today, attorneys with Americans United urged the town to drop the plan.

“Under well-established decisions, the City may not force individuals – even those convicted of crimes – to choose between religion and jail,” reads the letter.

The letter goes on to say, “The Program would be unconstitutional even if participants could, as the City has asserted, attend the religious service of their choice. For one, any such choice is purely theoretical: only churches participate in the Program and so in practice defendants must attend Christian services. In any event, the Program would violate the Constitution even if other religions did participate because the First Amendment also requires the government to remain neutral between religion and non-religion.”


The letter requests a response within 14 days.

Americans United’s letter was drafted by Gregory M. Lipper, AU litigation counsel, and AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Officers Begin Two-Year Term

(OKLAHOMA CITY) The Oklahoma City chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State (www.okau.org, www.au.org) held its annual membership meeting in September where it elected three new officers and returned one incumbent for two-year terms.

Elected president was John Loghry. John holds two Master’s degrees, one in Clinical Psychology from the Fuller Seminary School of Psychology, and one in Depth (or Deep) Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and is completing a PhD in Depth Psychology. His dissertation work is focused on artificial intelligence and its potential to critique and advance epistemological frames. He is a member of AOK (the Atheists of Oklahoma) and the Jungian Society for Scholarly Studies. His research interest is the psychology of religion, specifically what underlying factors cause certain religious behaviors, and he will be presenting a paper on this subject at a meeting of AOK in October.

The new vice-president will be Sophia Hernandez who is employed at OETA . She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Film and Video Studies with a minor in philosophy. Ms.Hernandez looks forward to being a part of OKAU's healthy participation in honoring the First Amendment's separation of church and state.

The office of secretary will be held by Aimee Breeze. Aimee is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah and is a member of the ACLU, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and American Atheists. Ms. Breeze is a Piping Designer for Chesapeake Energy. Her family includes two sons, a daughter, and three grandchildren.

Elected to another term as treasurer is Damion Reinhardt who is very active in atheist events in Oklahoma City and is the host of Oklahoma Atheists Godcast available on its website or iTunes.

The Oklahoma City chapter is considered one of the more active and influential chapters in the national organization. Annual events include a January legislative preview of proposed bills in the Oklahoma Legislature, a Spring Dialogue that discusses current events regarding First Amendment separation issues and a formal debate that provides some transparency on civil and religious viewpoints.

All of the OKAU chapter's events are open to the public.

Americans United For Separation of Church and State (AU) is a nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans. Americans United represents over 70,000 individual members and 5,000 churches and other houses of worship nationwide.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Coalition Of Organizations Asks Obama To Clarify Stand On Hiring Bias In ‘Faith-Based’ Initiative

President’s Recent Comments About Issue Have Sown Confusion, 56 Groups Say



September 19, 2011

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has joined a coalition of religious, education, civil rights and health organizations in a letter to President Barack Obama expressing concern over his approach to hiring bias in the “faith-based” initiative.

The 56 groups decided to write after Obama discussed the issue during a town hall meeting in College Park, Md., July 22. They assert that his remarks have only served to cloud the issue.

“The question here is simple: Has the president changed his position on subsidizing religious discrimination with tax funds?” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “If not, he should take action to restore civil rights protections in federally funded social services that were undercut during the Bush administration. Taxpayer dollars should never underwrite hiring bias.”


During the July 22 event, Obama was asked why he did not ban religious discrimination in taxpayer-funded programs operated by religious agencies, as he promised to do when running for president in 2008.

Obama made the original pledge while campaigning in Zanesville, Ohio, on July 1, 2008. He told a crowd, “If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion.”

But after taking office, Obama failed to make this change, indicating instead that the Department of Justice would examine the issue. Nothing has happened since then.

“Your recent statement, combined with the Administration’s failure to take any concrete steps thus far to restore anti-discrimination protections, causes us great disappointment,” wrote the groups. “We write, therefore, to ask that you clarify your July 22 remarks and take steps to fulfill your commitment to end federally funded employment discrimination.”


During the College Park town hall event, Obama opined that religious organizations have “more leeway” to “hire somebody who is a believer of that particular faith.”

Observed the groups in the letter to Obama, “We hope that this statement does not reflect a reversal of your commitment to end federally funded religious discrimination.”

The letter went on to list a number of instances where Obama could have curbed hiring bias in these programs but did not do so.

Asserted the letter, “Mr. President, we have been patiently waiting. If you have reversed your policy position on the issue of government-funded religious discrimination, we need to know that. If not, we would ask you to take concrete steps to fulfill the commitment you made in 2008 in Zanesville.”

In addition to Americans United, signers of the letter include: African American Ministers in Action, American Association of University Women, American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Defamation League, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Human Rights Campaign, Muslim Advocates, National Organization for Women, PFLAG, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Secular Coalition for America and United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.


http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2011/09/coalition-of-organizations.html

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is the GOP a Religion

"The GOP, deep down, is behaving as a religious movement, not as a political party, and a radical religious movement at that." http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/7412-is-the-gop-a-religion

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NYC Mayor Bloomberg Demonstrates Good Sense



Graphic courtesy of www.leftyparent.com/blog

Much to the consternation and umbrage of Catholic and Southern Baptist Convention leaders, Mayor Bloomberg has decided to not have any official religious speakers at the 9/11 ceremony this Sunday in NYC.

Bloomberg is to be congratulated for leaving religious devotions to one's own conscience and personal taste.

In observing the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center, that was in part brought on by religious fanaticism, we should be relieved that even more religious strife will not be a part of the official ceremony.

You can email Mayor Bloomberg at:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html

You can listen to the NPR story at this link:

http://www.npr.org/2011/09/08/140279184/clergy-insulted-theyre-barred-from-speaking-at-sept-11-event

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Americans United Challenge Indiana City's Proposed Aid To Religious School

Americans United, ACLU Challenge Indiana City's Proposed Aid To Religious School
South Bend Funding Of St. Joseph’s High School Unconstitutionally Forces Taxpayers To Support Religion, Says Federal Lawsuit

August 16, 2011

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU of Indiana and the national ACLU today asked a federal court to block an Indiana city's plan to use public funds in support of a religious school.

The South Bend Common Council voted 5-4 to spend $1.2 million to buy property that will be transferred to the Catholic Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend for $1. The land will be used by St. Joseph's High School to build a football stadium.

Such public funding of a religious school violates the church-state separation provisions of the U.S. and Indiana constitutions, the lawsuit charges.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, "Taxpayers should never be forced to support religion. If South Bend council members want to make a million-dollar donation to a religious school, they ought to dig into their own pockets, not those of the taxpayers. This action is just plain wrong."

http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2011/08/americans-united-aclu.html

PDF of legal filing--
http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2011/08/wirtx-v-south-bend-complaint.pdf

Monday, August 15, 2011


Annual Membership Meeting of OKC chapter of
Americans United for Separation of Church & State
for renewing and new members
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gatti Town Pizza, 5833 NW Expressway, OKC
Dutch-treat dinner: 6:00pm
Business meeting: 7:00pm
with election of officers for 2012

If unable to attend, membership is $25
and can be mailed to
P.O.Box 892747, Oklahoma City, OK 73189

Contact Mike Fuller, retiring president,
405-570-3244,mf12@sbcglobal.net
James Nimmo, 405-843-3651

Friday, June 17, 2011

Spring Dialogues Videos - Part 1/3


Martha Skeeters speaks at Oklahoma State Capitol on Vimeo.


On Saturday, 11 June 2011 Americans United for Separation of Church and State hosted an event at the State Capitol at which various distinguished persons spoke out on various kinds of encroachment of certain churches upon the secular state.

In this video, Professor Martha Skeeters speaks about reproductive choice and the recent history of religious opposition thereto.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Removal of Religious Freedom Protection held up in Committee

The passage of the resolution would allow the use of tax money to promote religion in Oklahoma with no oversight or supervision. We dodged the bullet this legislative session of 2011, but the resolution is still alive


Text of Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution:
Public Money or Property - Use for Sectarian Purposes

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.
http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Article_II,_Oklahoma_Constitution
---------------------------------


http://newlsb.lsb.state.ok.us/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=SJR23&session=1100


SJR 23 by Anderson

Constitutional amendment; repealing Section 5 of Article II, which relates to the use of public money or property for sectarian purposes. Ballot title. Filing.

History For SJR 23


First Reading 266 02/07/2011 S

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Authored by Senator Anderson 266 02/07/2011 S

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Second Reading referred to Judiciary 308 02/14/2011 S

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Candidates Ought Not Kowtow To Religious Right


June 2, 2011

Candidates Ought To Reaffirm Church-State Separation, Not Kowtow To Religious Right, Says AU’s Lynn

Presidential Hopefuls At Ralph Reed Event Signal Troubling Power Of Religious Right

The Religious Right has too much influence in American public life as the speaker line-up at a Ralph Reed event this week demonstrates, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

An array of presidential hopefuls and major congressional leaders is scheduled to appear at Reed’s “Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing” June 3 and 4 in Washington, D.C.

Reed is the former head of the Christian Coalition, a religious-political group founded by TV preacher Pat Robertson. Today, Reed is a political consultant and head of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, an organization supposedly dedicated to “educating, equipping, and mobilizing people of faith and like-minded individuals.” He has also made efforts to lure the Tea Party into an alliance with the Religious Right.

“I don’t think Ralph Reed has anyone fooled,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “He wants to forge fundamentalist churches and church members into a disciplined voting bloc and force political candidates to kneel before it.


“This kind of mixture of religion and politics is a grave danger to American public life,” said Lynn, who has monitored the Religious Right for some 25 years. “It is a sad day when our politicians start preaching and our preachers start politicking.”


Concluded Lynn, “I wish all the candidates would have the courage to stand up and say – as John F. Kennedy did in 1960 – ‘I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.’ Today, the Religious Right’s power is such that a statement like Kennedy’s is almost unthinkable. As a matter of fact, candidates are more likely to give their personal profession of faith.”


A recent Americans United survey of the top Religious Right ministries and groups in America revealed a tax-exempt fundamentalist empire with an annual income approaching one billion dollars.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2011/06/appearance-of-presidential.html

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's that time of year again: Graduation, Public Schools & Churches

clip:
When contemplating use of a church for graduation, school officials would do well to consider Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's views in Lynch v. Donnelly, a 1984 Supreme Court decision.

The establishment clause of the First Amendment is violated, she argued, when government endorsement of religion "sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community."

If there's any time when students shouldn't be made to feel like outsiders, it would be at their high school graduation.


Read the rest at:
http://www.news-leader.com/article/20110525/OPINIONS02/105250361/1002/SPORTS/?odyssey=nav|head

or http://tinyurl.com/426vgl6



Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001. Web: firstamendmentcenter.org . E-mail: chaynes@freedomforum.org

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spring Dialogue Sat. June 11, 2011



Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation & State
invites you to a Spring Dialogue Sat. June 11, 2011, 9:30am to 11:30am
Okla. State Senate Chamber, NE 23rd & Lincoln, OKC

Speakers to include
Rep. Al McAffrey, House District 88
Prof. Martha Skeeter, OU Dept. of Women's & Gender Studies
Scott Hamilton, exec. dir. Cimarron Alliance

Open to the public and free of charge
Use WEST entrance

For more information contact
chapter president Mike Fuller, mf12@sbcglobal.net
Jim Huff, jah30@cox.net
or Jim Nimmo, 405-843-3651
www.okau.org, www.au.org

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oklahoma Anti-Sharia Amendment Violates U.S. Constitution

May 17, 2011

Religious And Civil Liberties Organizations Urge Federal Appeals Court To Reject Religious Bigotry

An Oklahoma constitutional amendment that purports to ban Islamic law in the state singles out Muslims for discrimination and should not be enforced, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and other groups have told a federal appeals court.

The so-called “Save Our State Amendment” barring enforcement of sharia passed with 70 percent of the vote in November, but Americans United and the other organizations assert that the provision is unconstitutional.

“The amendment singles out one faith tradition for government hostility,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “That violates our fundamental constitutional requirement that government remain neutral on religion.

“Oklahoma doesn’t need a special amendment to protect it from government-imposed Islamic law,” he continued. “The First Amendment already does that.

“I think we all know that sharia has no chance of taking over Oklahoma,” Lynn concluded. “This entire incident has been a sad example of politically motivated religious intolerance.”


A lawsuit against the amendment was filed by Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma Council for American-Islamic Relations. In November, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a preliminary injunction in Awad v. Ziriax, to stop the Oklahoma State Election Board from certifying the election results.

The case is now on appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a friend-of-the-court brief, Americans United and other organizations urge the appeals court to void the amendment.

The brief asserts that the amendment was passed after a wave of anti-Islamic sentiment that was often led by state legislators. The amendment, the groups argue, sends a clear message of governmental disapproval of Islam.

“[A] provision like the Save Our State Amendment communicates to Muslims that they – and they alone – are likely to receive inferior treatment on account of their religion,” asserts the brief.

The brief was drafted by the American Jewish Committee and attorneys Craig C. Martin and Joshua M. Segal of the firm of Jenner & Block LLP, with input from attorneys at Americans United and other organizations.

Other groups joining the brief are the Anti-Defamation League, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, the Interfaith Alliance and the Union for Reform Judaism.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2011/05/oklahoma-anti-sharia.html

Friday, May 13, 2011

NDP 2011

What exactly does creeping theocracy look like?

It looks like an exclusively Christian worship service held in the rotunda of the State Capitol, resulting from an enthusiastic response to a federal law “respecting an establishment of religion” insofar as it mandates an official day of prayer. It looks like government officials taking time off from their duties in order to preach sermons to the assembled citizens. It looks like government officials (in collaboration with powerful evangelical lobbyists) telling the citizens when to worship, where to worship, how to worship, and whom to worship. It looks, in brief, more-or-less exactly like the National Day of Prayer worship service held at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Thursday, May 5th of 2011.

For critical and archival purposes, we are reproducing here a few aspects of the NDP 2011 program. The following are the quotations from the inside front page of the event program.






“It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” – George Washington


“But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious
Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched
and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the
deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced
by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”
President Abraham Lincoln


“Righteousness Exalts A Nation…But Sin Is A Disgrace to Any
People” - Proverbs 14:34


“What other nation is so great to have their gods near them the
way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to Him”
Deuteronomy 4:7


“Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of
need.” - Hebrews 4:16


“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our
arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our
prayers.” - J. Sidlow Baxter


If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will
be a Nation gone under.” - President Ronald Reagan


“If we gather together on our knees, we solidify that sense within
our hearts that God is with us. And if He is with us, and if He is for
us, who can be against us?” - Beth Moore (Bible study leader)


“All that is necessary for evil to triumph
is for good men to do nothing.” - Edmund Burke





First off, it must be said that George Washington never said or wrote the first quote, either in his farewell address of 17 September 1796, or anywhere else in his voluminous writings. Substantively and in terms of intellectual honesty, we are off to a rocky start here. This is why our English teachers taught us to carefully cite to original sources.

As to the quotations from a certain holy book, it must be pointed out that only one religion is represented on this page. This would not be a problem on any given Sunday in a private church bulletin, but this public event was billed as a “national day” intended for everyone, whereas this collection of quotations smack of a strictly Christian Nationalism. This impression is reinforced by mixing quotations from U.S. Presidents together with quotations taken from Protestant translations of Scripture and Protestant authors such as Baxter and Moore. This impression is further reinforced by the top billing of the event itself:





What we have here are the three top officials of the Oklahoma State government, presiding over an exclusively Christian worship service, in the heart of the State Capitol. Can one even conceive of a more perfectly calculated symbol for the integration of church and state?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Oklahoma Voucher Program Goes to Court

Oklahoma school districts are caught between a rock and a hard place, that is, between a voucher program carefully designed to funnel tax dollars into parochial schools, and a state constitutional provision which forbids precisely that sort of funding. It would appear that the courts are going to have to sort this mess out. More details here and here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Debate Video now available

The full video of the February 24th Debate sponsored by the OKC chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State is now available at
http://vimeo.com/20413733

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Two Stories about the Feb. 24 Constitutional Debate



photo courtesy of David Wheelock
left to right, Dr. Bruce Prescott, Rev. Jim Shields, Dr. Steve Kern

www.newsok.com/article/3545319


http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-10920-separation-deliberation.html


Separation deliberation
Two pastors, including Sally Kern’s husband, debate whether the Constitution was intended as a religious document.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Letter to the Editor: No doubt about evolution

http://www.tulsaworld.com/images/template/TW_Logo.jpg

Letter to the Editor: No doubt about evolution

By Larry Forrest, Catoosa

Published: 2/26/2011 5:36 AM

It was with amazement and amusement that I read the recent letters in the
Tulsa World disputing the theory of evolution. Evolution deniers would have
us believe that the vast majority of scientists who regard evolution as
being true have been blinded by ... what? A delusion of Satan?

Scientists of all religious faiths (or no faith at all) accept evolution,
whereas it is primarily fundamentalist Christians who reject it. The latter
would have the Hebrew creation myth found in the Book of Genesis taught
alongside evolution in public schools.

While we're at it, why not teach the Demon Theory of Disease with the Germ
Theory? Perhaps astrology could find a place in behavioral psychology. And
wouldn't it be fun to teach alchemy in chemistry class? After all, Sir Isaac
Newton believed that base metals could be turned into gold.

To those not wearing theological blinders, the evidence for evolution is
overwhelming. From the nearly three decades of meticulous study by Charles
Darwin, resulting in the publication of his book "On the Origin of Species,"
to Mendelian genetics, to DNA, to such stunning fossil finds as
Archaeopteryx (a bird-reptile combo), and Lucy (a 3.2 million-year- old
bipedal ancestor of ours), the case for evolution has been made irrefutably.

As Friedrich Nietzsche put it, "If you wish to strive for peace of soul and
pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire."

Science inquires.

This letter was published exclusively online.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at
http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=62&articleid=201102
26_62_0_Iaihaa37852 3


Letter to the Editor: No doubt about evolution
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

HB 1001 Religious Anti-discrimination Act

HB 1001 Religious Anti-discrimination Act

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing


Here's another bill that is scheduled to be heard Tuesday morning. Email contacts for committee members are included. Email contacts and talking points are included below. Further legislator information is available here:
http://www.oklegislature.gov/

Attached below is the text of HB 1001.

Mike Fuller, OK AU president


Also on Tuesday at 10:30 am, the House Common Education Committee will hear HB 1001.

HB 1001 is a bill designed to get around the Supreme Court case, Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, which held that student prayer over the loudspeaker before a high school football game was unconstitutional.

Currently, students are fully protected by the US and Oklahoma Constitutions when they voluntarily express their religious beliefs. This bill, however, requires that schools have majority-elected students speak at designated school events and sanctions these students to practice and profess their religion in the classroom and at official school functions, where children of different religious beliefs are a captive audience. Schools would have to choose between violating this state law or the US Constitution. Furthermore, the bill would force school districts to open and manage “limited public forums” even if they determine it is not in students’ educational interest or school officials’ capacity. The bill could easily result in costly litigation for schools across the state.

This bill and its model policy would mandate that, when a student speaks during the school day or during graduation or sporting events, the forum in which the student speaks is a public forum. In particular, schools will have to create a public forum during all school announcements, graduations, and varsity football games.

This should mean that any student could speak on any subject. But under the bill, the school would designate certain students as eligible to speak and then would create criteria for choosing which students, among the eligible students, may speak. And the only students eligible are students who have achieved positions of honor, such as sports captain, student council president, or homecoming queen. The bill also sets restrictions on what the students may say.

Please contact the committee members to tell them you strongly oppose the bill:

Jabar Shumate jabarshumate@okhouse.gov
Gus Blackwell gusblackwell@okhouse.gov
Ed Cannaday ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov
Dennis Casey dennis.casey@okhouse.gov
Donnie Condit Donnie.condit@okhouse.gov
Doug Cox dougcox@okhouse.gov
Corey Holland corey.holland@okhouse.gov
Fred Jordan fred.jordan@okhouse.gov
Jeannie McDaniel jeanniemcdaniel@okhouse.gov
Jason Nelson Jason.nelson@okhouse.gov
Jadine Nollan jadine.nollan@okhouse.gov
Pat Ownbey pat.ownbey@okhouse.gov
Dustin Roberts dustin.roberts@okhouse.gov
Emily Virgin Emily.virgin@okhouse.gov

STATE OF OKLAHOMA

1st Session of the 53rd Legislature (2011)

HOUSE BILL 1001 By: Reynolds





AS INTRODUCED

An Act relating to schools; creating the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act; requiring school districts to treat student expression in certain manner; directing school districts to adopt a limited public forum for student speakers policy; stating purpose of the policy; listing certain provisions; requiring school district disclaimers to be provided at certain events; prohibiting the exclusion of student expression of religious viewpoints on an otherwise permissible subject from the limited public forum; providing for equal treatment of student expression in class assignments; specifying standards for judging homework and classroom assignments; allowing students to organize religious groups and activities; specifying treatment of religious groups; allowing school districts to disclaim school sponsorship of student groups; requiring school districts to adopt and implement the model policy; specifying that school districts adopting the model policy are compliant with the act; defining term; providing for equal treatment of student expression; providing for student speakers at nongraduation events; establishing public forum limits; providing for notification of eligible students; specifying subject limitations; requiring distribution of a school district disclaimer; allowing certain student speakers based on special positions of honor; providing for student speakers at graduation ceremonies; establishing limited public forum; specifying student eligibility criteria; specifying topic limitations; allowing certain student speakers based on special positions of honor; specifying subject matter; requiring a written disclaimer on graduation programs; providing for equal treatment of student expression in class assignments; requiring homework and classroom work to be judged on certain standard; providing for equal treatment for organizing religious groups and activities; specifying treatment of religious groups; allowing school districts to disclaim sponsorship of groups and events; requiring enforcement by the Attorney General; allowing a civil cause of action for certain violations against certain entities and persons; providing for remedies and costs; providing for codification; providing an effective date; and declaring an emergency.


BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA:

SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 27-101 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act”.

SECTION 2. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 27-102 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
A school district shall treat the voluntary expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats the voluntary expression by a student of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint, if any, expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.

SECTION 3. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 27-103 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. To ensure that a school district does not discriminate against the publicly stated voluntary expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, and to eliminate any actual or perceived affirmative school sponsorship or attribution to the district of the expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, each school district in the state shall adopt a policy, which shall include the establishment of a limited public forum for student speakers at all school events at which a student is to publicly speak. The policy regarding the limited public forum shall also require the school district to:
1. Provide the forum in a manner that does not discriminate against the voluntary expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject;
2. Provide a method, based on neutral criteria, for the selection of student speakers at school events and graduation ceremonies;
3. Ensure that a student speaker does not engage in obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, or indecent speech or speech promoting illegal drug use; and
4. State, in writing, orally, or both, that the speech of a student does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position, or expression of the district.
B. The school district disclaimer required by paragraph 4 of subsection A of this section shall be provided at all graduation ceremonies. The school district shall also continue to provide the disclaimer at any other event in which a student speaks publicly for as long as a need exists to dispel confusion over the nonsponsorship of the student speech by the district.
C. Student expression on an otherwise permissible subject shall not be excluded from the limited public forum because the subject is expressed from a religious viewpoint.

SECTION 4. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 27-104 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Homework and classroom assignments shall be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district. Students shall not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of their work.
SECTION 5. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 27-105 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, "see you at the pole" gatherings, or other religious gatherings before, during, and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups. Religious groups shall be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as is given to other noncurricular groups without discrimination based on the religious content of the students’ expression. If student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to advertise or announce meetings of the groups, the school district shall not discriminate against groups that meet for prayer or other religious speech. A school district may disclaim school sponsorship of noncurricular groups and events in a manner that neither favors nor disfavors groups that meet to engage in prayer or religious speech.

SECTION 6. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 27-106 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
Each school district in the state shall adopt and implement the model policy as set forth in Section 7 of this act. When a school district adopts, implements and follows the model policy as provided in Section 7 of this act, the district shall be deemed in compliance with the provisions of the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act covered by the model policy.

SECTION 7. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 27-107 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
As used in the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, "model policy" means a local policy adopted by a school district in the state that is substantially identical to the following:

MODEL RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINTS ANTIDISCRIMINATION POLICY
ARTICLE I. STUDENT EXPRESSION OF RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINTS

The school district shall treat the voluntary expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats the voluntary expression by a student of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint, if any, expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.

ARTICLE II. STUDENT SPEAKERS AT NONGRADUATION EVENTS

A. The State of Oklahoma and the school districts in the state believe that students gain numerous education benefits from public speaking. The school district hereby creates a limited public forum for student speakers at all school events at which a student is to publicly speak. For each speaker, the district shall set a maximum time limit, reasonable and appropriate to the occasion. Student speakers shall introduce:
1. Varsity football games including games played at regional and state playoffs;
2. Opening announcements and greetings for the school day; and
3. Any additional school functions designated by the district, which may include, without limitation, assemblies and pep rallies, school programs open to the public, and any other athletic events designated by the district.
B. The forum shall be limited in the manner provided for in this Article.
C. Only those students in the highest two grade levels of the school and who hold one of the following positions of honor based on neutral criteria are eligible to use the limited public forum:
1. President of the student council;
2. Class President of the senior class or the highest grade level in the school;
3. Captains of the varsity football team; and
4. Any other students the school district may designate who are presidents of specific school organizations.

D. Eligible students shall be notified of their eligibility, and a student who wishes to participate as an introducing speaker shall submit their name to the student council or other designated body during an announced period of not less than three (3) days. No student shall be compelled to accept a speaking position. The announced period may be at the beginning of the school year, at the end of the preceding school year so student speakers are in place for the new year, or, if the selection process will be repeated each semester, at the beginning of each semester or at the end of the preceding semester so speakers are in place for the next semester. The names of the volunteering student speakers shall be randomly drawn until all names have been selected, and the names shall be listed in the order drawn. Each selected student will be matched chronologically to the event for which the student will be giving the introduction. Each student may speak for one (1) week at a time for all introductions of events that week, or rotate after each speaking event, or otherwise as determined by the district. The list of student speakers shall be chronologically repeated as needed, in the same order. Student speakers may mutually agree to trade speaking engagements among themselves as circumstances arise. The district may repeat the selection process each semester rather than once a year.

E. The subject of the student introductions shall be related to the purpose of the event and to the purpose of marking the opening of the event, honoring the occasion, the participants, and those in attendance, bringing the audience to order, and focusing the audience on the purpose of the event. The subject shall be designated, a student shall stay on the subject, and the student shall not engage in obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, or indecent speech or speech promoting illegal drug use. The school district shall treat the voluntary expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats the voluntary expression by a student of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.

F. For as long as there is a need to dispel confusion over the nonsponsorship of the student speech, at each event in which a student will deliver an introduction, a disclaimer shall be stated in written or oral form, or both, such as: "The student giving the introduction for this event is a volunteering student selected on neutral criteria to introduce the event. The content of the introduction is the private expression of the student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position, or expression of the school district."

G. Certain students who have attained special positions of honor in the school have traditionally addressed school audiences from time to time as a tangential component of their achieved positions of honor, such as the captains of various sports teams, student council officers, class officers, homecoming kings and queens, prom kings and queens, and the like, and have attained their positions based on neutral criteria. Nothing in this policy eliminates the continuation of the practice of having these students, irrespective of grade level, address school audiences in the normal course of their respective positions. Similarly, certain students who have attained special positions of honor within a school club or organization have addressed their members and guests at meetings, banquets, and other events from time to time as a tangential component of their achieved position of honor within the school club or organization. Nothing in this policy eliminates the continuation of the practice of having those students, irrespective of grade level, address those audiences in the normal course of their respective positions at such school club or organization meetings, banquets, and events. The eligible speakers and selection process stated in this article shall not apply to those school club and organization meetings, banquets, and events. The school district shall create a limited public forum for the speakers and shall treat the voluntary expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats the voluntary expression by a student of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and shall not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint, if any, expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.

ARTICLE III. STUDENT SPEAKERS AT GRADUATION CEREMONIES

A. The school district hereby creates a limited public forum consisting of an opportunity for a student to speak to begin graduation ceremonies and another student to speak to end graduation ceremonies. For each speaker, the district shall set a maximum time limit reasonable and appropriate to the occasion.
B. The forum shall be limited in the manner provided by this article.
C. Only students who are graduating and who hold one of the following neutral criteria positions of honor shall be eligible to use the limited public forum:
1. President of the student council;
2. Class President of the graduating class of the highest grade level in the school; and
3. Any other student council officers or class officers of the graduating class or the highest grade level in the school as the school district may designate.
D. A student who will otherwise have a speaking role in the graduation ceremonies is ineligible to give the opening and closing remarks. The names of the eligible volunteering students will be randomly drawn. The first name drawn will give the opening and the second name drawn will give the closing.
E. The topic of the opening and closing remarks shall be related to the purpose of the graduation ceremony and to the purpose of marking the opening and closing of the event, honoring the occasion, the participants, and those in attendance, bringing the audience to order, and focusing the audience on the purpose of the event.
F. In addition to the students giving the opening and closing remarks, certain other students who have attained special positions of honor based on neutral criteria, including, without limitation, the valedictorian, shall have speaking roles at graduation ceremonies. For each speaker, the school district shall set a maximum time limit reasonable and appropriate to the occasion and to the position held by the speaker. For this purpose, the district creates a limited public forum for these students to deliver the addresses. The subject of the addresses shall be related to the purpose of the graduation ceremony, marking and honoring the occasion, honoring the participants and those in attendance, and the perspective of the student on purpose, achievement, life, school, graduation, and looking forward to the future.

G. The subject shall be designated for each student speaker, the student shall stay on the subject, and the student shall not engage in obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, or indecent speech or speech that promotes illegal drug use. The school district shall treat the voluntary expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats the voluntary expression by a student of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and shall not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.

H. A written disclaimer shall be printed in the graduation program that states: "The students who will be speaking at the graduation ceremony were selected based on neutral criteria to deliver messages of the students’ own choices. The content of the message of each student speaker is the private expression of the individual student and does not reflect any position or expression of the school district, the board of education of the school district, the school district administration, employees of the school district, or the views of any other graduate. The contents of these messages were prepared by the student volunteers, and the district refrained from any interaction with student speakers regarding the student speakers' viewpoints on permissible subjects."
ARTICLE IV. RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN CLASS ASSIGNMENTS

Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of the submission by the student. Homework and classroom work shall be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school. Students shall not be penalized or rewarded on account of religious content. If the assignment given by a teacher involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards, including literary quality, and not penalized or rewarded on account of its religious content.

ARTICLE V. FREEDOM TO ORGANIZE RELIGIOUS GROUPS AND ACTIVITIES
Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, "see you at the pole" gatherings, and other religious gatherings before, during, and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups. Religious groups shall be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as is given to other noncurricular groups, without discrimination based on the religious content of the expression of the group. If student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to advertise or announce the group meetings, for example, by advertising in a student newspaper, putting up posters, making announcements on a student activities bulletin board or public address system, or handing out leaflets, school authorities shall not discriminate against groups that meet for prayer or other religious speech. School authorities may disclaim sponsorship of noncurricular groups and events, provided they administer the disclaimer in a manner that does not favor or disfavor groups that meet to engage in prayer or other religious speech.
SECTION 8. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 27-108 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
The Attorney General shall have the authority to enforce the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act and to seek all remedies provided by law. Additionally, a person injured by a violation of the act may bring a cause of action for civil relief against a governmental entity or person, including an employee, servant, or agent of a governmental entity, who violated the act. Remedies available in a civil suit include equitable relief and compensatory damages. A plaintiff who prevails in a cause of action under this section shall be entitled to costs, including reasonable attorney fees.
SECTION 9. This act shall become effective July 1, 2011.
SECTION 10. It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.

53-1-5131 KB 11/16/10