Group seeks Oklahoma volunteers to lobby lawmakers to oppose religion-based measures

The Secular Coalition for America wants to stop attempts by legislators to insert religion into government. An Oklahoma lawmaker says legislators should use their faith as a guideline when considering measures.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: October 6, 2012
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Fostering separation

In general, the secular coalition focuses on legislation that attempts to insert religion, religious privileging, or religiously based discrimination into laws, or uses taxpayer funding to support or promote religion or religious beliefs.

Kern said she respects the secular coalition's right to form a lobbying chapter.

“We live in America,” she said. “But the distinction is: What do we mean by religion? An organized church is what our Founding Fathers meant. They never intended to divorce one's faith from any area of life.

“When our Founding Fathers said Congress should make no laws respecting religion or prohibiting the free establishment thereof, they were talking about an organized church, that government was not to endorse an organized church,” said Kern, a former social studies teacher in the Oklahoma City School District. “They never intended that one faith, regardless of what that faith is, would not influence their lives.

“I don't want any particular church to be in control of my government, nor do I want any government to be in control of any church,” she said. “But one's personal faith, if it's real, will impact every area of their life.”

To participate

Volunteers in the state chapter would lobby legislators to support a strong separation of religion and government, Youngblood said. Those interested can call (530) 881-1499 and give the participant access code of 978895. The call is at noon Wednesday. An audio recording of the call will be posted later on the group's website, www.secular.org.

Volunteers will be provided with a website and other materials, Youngblood said. Eventually, the group would like to expand its effort and have at least two staff members in every state.

The secular coalition represents 11 member organizations and nontheistic Americans, Youngblood said. About 40 million Americans don't identify with any religion.

“We represent nontheists but we really see what we're doing as protecting our core constitutional founding principles, something that affects all Americans on leaving the separation of religion and government as the best guarantee of freedom for all Americans, including religious people,” Youngblood said. “Our chapters are not open only to nontheists. There are many, many people out there who do have a belief in God, who do consider themselves to be religious, that agree with us that religion has no place in government. And those people are absolutely welcome to join the chapter as well.”


AT A GLANCE

Last session

Legislation taken up during this year's Oklahoma legislative session that would have drawn opposition from Secular Coalition for America includes:

Senate Resolution 62

• Reaffirms support for traditional marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

• Passed.

Senate Bill 1433

• The personhood bill, which defines life as beginning at conception.

• Failed.

House Concurrent Resolution 1024

• Declares the official motto of the state to be “Oklahoma — in God We Trust.”

• Passed.

House Bill 2460

• Expands religious refusal laws for health care providers.

• Failed.

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