Taking Theocratic Action in Oklahoma
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 03:42:50 PM EST
State and federal legislative bodies generally open their business days with a prayer.  While many consider the practice contrary to the spirit and letter of the Constitution, and prayers generate controversy on ocasion, some members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives recently outdid themselves in a theocratically inspired effort to strike the daily prayer from the record because they did not approve of the religious views of the minister who offered it.

The United Church News reports that after a United Church of Christ minister Rev. Scott H. Jones, pastor of Cathedral of Hope in Oklahoma City gave the opening prayer, the customary motion was made to include the prayer in the record of the day's proceedings.  And that is when the theocrats swung into action.

According to United Church News:  
Jones had been invited to deliver the prayer and serve as chaplain for the day by Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City.

Following the prayer, McAffrey asked that the session vote to include Jones' prayer in the House journal, the official daily record of the chamber. An objection was raised by Rep. John Wright, R-Broken Arrow, who called for a vote on the prayer's inclusion.

"It was a pretty chaotic moment," said Jones of the procedural points of order that ensued following Wright's objection. "My understanding was that [an objection to a prayer] never happens."

The vote took place once order had been established, with 64 representatives voting to include the prayer, 20 opposing it and 17 abstentions.

Jones is a constituent of McAffrey's Oklahoma City district. Both believe the objection was raised because of their sexuality. Jones leads the largest predominantly LGBT congregation in Oklahoma City and is himself gay. McAffrey is Oklahoma's only openly gay legislator.

"As the leader of Rev. Jones' denomination, I am deeply offended by the treatment he received from the legislature and dismayed by the message of intolerance it sends to the citizens of Oklahoma and beyond," said the Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the UCC. "It is comforting, however, to remember that our prayers are judged at the throne of grace and not in the halls of petty principalities."

"The Oklahoman" newspaper quoted McAffrey on Wednesday, saying that "because most of Scott's congregation are gay people and Scott is gay himself, I'm sure that's the reason why there were negative votes on it."

But Wright sees it differently. In the same Oklahoman article, he stated his objection was procedural - that prayers were only entered into the official record on Thursdays - but later said his "actions were motivated by the faith."

Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, was among those who voted to strike the prayer from the record. Kern is on record as calling homosexuality "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism and Islam."

UCC leaders expressed concern about "discrimination" and "bigotry" -- but there is more than that involved here.  As the leading opponent of including the prayer in the record stated, his actions "were motivated by the faith."

If the legislature is going to have prayer and include the prayers in the record of the legislature as a custom and tradition, holding votes to exlude the prayers of specific ministers -- regardless of sexual orientation -- from the record it is a distinctly theocratic step. If one prayer can be excluded because majorities don't approve of the particular member of the clergy or his or her respective religious tradition -- in this case one that affirs the equality of LGTB people and includes them in leadership roles and allows them to practice as clergy, then any faith tradition may be subject to such votes.

The theocrats lost this vote.  But they will no doubt be back with other theocratic acts.

Here  is the text of the truly non-controversial prayer that so excited the theocratic element.



Display:
I guess you can only put a lid on the stupidity for so long...

by trog69 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 05:24:15 PM EST

By calling for a vote on one prayer, that someone might call for an all or none rule in keeping with the separation clause.  The result would be to allow every opening prayer to be included or ban all of them from it. If they had trouble with a gay Christian what would they say about a Mormon, or Hindi, or Wiccan?

by FreeDem on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 09:46:38 AM EST


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