An event to allow people to sign a "proclamation for morality” — which blames the country’s economic woes on its lack of morals and states the hope of America rests upon biblical values — should not have taken place in the state Capitol, opponents to the document say.
The signing of the proclamation by Rep. Sally Kern was more suited to being held in a religious setting, said Jan Allen of Sapulpa.
"She’s bringing religion into her job, and she has no business doing that,” Allen said. "She needs to do it at her church and leave it out of our government. This is holding Oklahoma back. It hurts Oklahoma’s image all over the country.”
Kern, R-Oklahoma City, defended her decision and the proclamation, which opponents said contained questionable quotes from the country’s founders or took them out of context.
"This is the people’s building ... and, yes, I am an elected official and at the same time I am a citizen,” she said. "I’m not trying to legislate my religion. Our Founding Fathers didn’t want that, but at the same time they did not want to suppress the free exercise of religion and that’s what this is about.”
About 250 people gathered Thursday at the Capitol, where Kern read the proclamation and others had a chance to sign it. Opponents at first simply turned their backs during the event, but began chanting "Shame on you!” and "Love thy neighbor!”
Those there in support of the proclamation responded by singing "God Bless America.”
The peaceful but loud exchange that rang through the first-floor rotunda went on for several minutes, causing Kern and others to prematurely stop the event and move a news conference to a Capitol press room.
"Those people who preach tolerance are not willing to extend the same thing to someone who disagrees with them,” Kern said. "So, ladies and gentlemen, we are seeing a wonderful illustration of intolerance.”
Supporters outnumbered protesters. The event ended as many on both sides sang the national anthem; it was unclear which side started singing it first.
Kern’s proclamation contends there’s been a decline in the moral foundations of the United States and declares the need for spiritual renewal to address societal problems, including the recent economic downturn.
It is not a proposed piece of legislation. Four other legislators, all House Republicans, showed up in support of Kern’s proclamation; Oklahoma’s Legislature has 149 members.
"It’s just a challenge for those who believe in the Judeo-Christian system to take a stand in our society today,” Kern said.