Religious Battles Mark Oklahoma Landscape

Oklahoma is enduring a religious identity crisis. And Christmas is being caught in the crossfire. Since publishing more on the Oklahoma Merry Christmas Bill yesterday Defend has received several emails of concern from Oklahoma citizens on both sides of the issue.

In 2009 a Republican-led effort to erect a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol was approved and privately funded. Since that time Oklahoma has become a hotbed of constitutional debate and religious bickering.

The Oklahoma Merry Christmas Bill is merely an extension of that debate. There is a fight coming to Oklahoma schools and the makers of the bill know it. So too do many of the early supporters of the bill. They have watched the debate surrounding the Ten Commandments monument unfold and they anticipate a lot of out-of-state disruption because of it.

“The Ten Commandments are an important component of the foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Oklahoma,” the bill authorizing the monument acknowledged. “The courts of the United States of America and of various states frequently cite the Ten Commandments in published decisions, and acknowledgements of the role played by the Ten Commandments in our nation’s heritage are common throughout America.”

In other words, justification of the monument is that the Ten Commandments are historical, not religious. That is clearly a debatable point but one that supporters are sticking to because any religious themed element on public property supported by the government would be protected under the Constitution.

Construction on the monument was completed in 2012. The cement wasn’t even dry before the ACLU took it to court, complete with a prominent Oklahoma Baptist minister, Bruce Prescott, as the lead plaintiff in the case.

“To argue that the monument merely commemorates something historical rather than religious is a slap in the face to the many Oklahomans, like myself, who incorporate the Ten Commandments into our religious practice,” Prescott stated. Prescott contacted the ACLU last year to complain about the monument, which eventually led to the filing of the lawsuit.

While that case works its way through the media and the courts other elements are piling on.

News reports have surfaced in recent days of a Satanist group that wants to erect their own display next to the Ten Commandments monument. The Satanic Temple, a New York based organization, says that by accepting their donation of a monument dedicated to Satanism the state of Oklahoma can demonstrate their religious equality and likely preserve the Ten Commandments monument under dispute.

You can imagine how that’s going over in red-state Oklahoma.

Additionally, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism says he too would like to place a monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol.

But there are other religion-based debates raging in Oklahoma now as well.

The Oklahoma-based retail chain, Hobby Lobby, is famously Christian and fighting on the federal level against Obamacare — based on their religious convictions. CEO David Green is fighting the federal health care mandate that requires employee health care plans to provide insurance coverage for types of contraception that the firm’s owners consider to be “abortion-causing.” Green said the mandate conflicts with his religious values that include opposition to abortion.

All the talk of religion and government, coupled with those who see fights in schools in neighboring states over the celebration of Christmas, have supporters there eager for passage of the Oklahoma Merry Christmas Bill. Texas has numerous school-related Christmas incidents last year which prompted the passage of their bill. Oklahoma supporters say they want to nip that problem in the bud before the FFRF, American Humanists and American Atheists, Inc. come threatening Oklahoma school districts.

Let’s keep an eye on Oklahoma as a potential new front in the war on Christmas. The stage is set for battle and Christmas there could well be affected.

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