SQ 790: Government to Assist Religious Institutions with Public Funds

SQ 790: Government to Assist Religious Institutions with Public Funds

In this Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 file photo, workers remove the Ten Commandments monument from its base on the grounds of the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma’s lawmakers want voters to decide four issues in next month’s election, including one that would let them erect a Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol and others enshrining executions, farmers’ rights and liquor sales in the state’s constitution. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

State Question 790 will permit the use of public money and property for religious purposes by repealing Article 2 Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution stating that;

“No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit or support of any sect, church, denomination or system of religion or for the use, benefit or support of any priest, preacher, minister or other religious teacher, dignitary or sectarian institution as such.”

Proponents of the question believe that it is a step towards religious liberty in the state; however, some Oklahoma residents aren’t so sure and believe that it will have the opposite effect.

“Passage of this bill would have at least three distinctly negative effects on the citizens of Oklahoma,” Vice President of Oklahoma Atheists, Damion Reinhardt, said.

Reinhardt stated that one of these effects include corrupting the churches by opening up churches, temples and mosques to sectarian conflict as various denominations and faiths engage in lobbying for their own small slice of the the state fisc.

“No one can honestly believe that the pursuit of piety will be enhanced by the process of politicking,” Reinhardt said.

Another one of these effects would be undermining the state by allowing legislators to utilize public monies to politically favored faith schools at the expense of both public schools and religious minorities.

The final reason is the potential for the State Question to invite “endless litigation.”

“SQ 790 would remove the venerable safeguards built into our state constitution against intermixing of faith and government,” Reinhardt said. “This would encourage legislators to experiment with further pushing the boundaries of the federal First Amendment prohibitions on such entanglement.”

Supporters of the State Question claim that the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibited the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on public grounds makes Oklahoma “hostile to religion.”

However, even if State Question 790 passes, there is still possibility of the United States Supreme Court ruling that the Ten Commandment Monument’s placement on public property violates the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

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