Wednesday, May 25, 2011

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

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:|head


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

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,
Jim Huff,
or Jim Nimmo, 405-843-3651,

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.

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.