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Local Americans United chapter addresses anti-science and anti-choice bills in upcoming legislative session

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Mike Fuller, with the Oklahoma City chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State addresses members at a gathering on Saturday.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Over doughnuts and coffee, the Oklahoma
City chapter of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State
gathered Saturday morning in a conference room in the Belle Isle Public Library
to discuss this year’s upcoming legislative session and the various bills they
believe cross the line in regards to the separation of church and state.

The bills in question are largely a reflection of
the hardline conservative swing that has taken place within the makeup of the
Oklahoma legislature. State Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City) has the lion’s
share of controversial bills, primarily dealing with issues relating to access
to abortion, including HB 1025 – “an Act … creating the Protection of Human
Life” and HB 1029 – “An Act … creating the Personhood Act of 2013.” Reynolds
has also proposed HB 1456, the “Religious Viewpoint anti-discrimination act” –
which would “treat student expression in certain manner.”

As they discussed the Personhood movement, it was
noted that these efforts have failed in several states, including efforts made
last year in the Oklahoma legislature.

That’s just a quick look at Reynolds’s offerings.

But back to the rest …

First is SJR 31 by Sen. Bill Brown (R-Broken Arrow).
This joint resolution “is a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution,
prohibiting discrimination or penalization for refusing to provide certain
health insurance coverage if it is contrary to religious or moral beliefs.”

Next we have SB 175, proposed by newly-elected State
Sen. AJ Griffin (R-Guthrie). The bill relates to rape and its definition. What concerned
the AU/OKC members was that Griffin’s bill states: “Where the victim is at least 16 years of age and is less than 20 years
of age and is a participant in a youth program or services at a church or place
of worship and engages in sexual intercourse with a person who is 18 years of
age or older and is an employee or volunteer employee of the same church or
ministry
.”

Moving on, as we noted last week, regarding Sen.
Josh Brecheen’s SB 758 – “The Oklahoma Science Education Act” – the effort to
cement creationism in the classroom is ongoing via Brecheen’s new bill for the
2013 session. Charles Darwin is not a particularly popular historical figure
among many in Oklahoma’s Republican Party.

As we noted: “This bill
would ‘encourage the exploration of scientific theories that would allow
teachers to help students analyze certain scientific strengths and weaknesses
while also prohibiting the promotion of religious or non-religious beliefs.’”

And then there is a companion bill in the House, via
HB 1674, the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” penned by Rep.
Gus Blackwell (R-Laverne). This one would “encourage the exploration of
scientific theories that would allow teachers to help students analyze certain
scientific strengths and weaknesses while also prohibiting the promotion of
religious or non-religious beliefs.”

It’s the anti-evolution and anti-science bills that
seemed to particularly concern the Americans United members.

“Oklahoma has had more creationist bills than any
other state,” said one member of the audience. “We’ve had 26, which is 1/6 of
the total of the whole United States. We’ve won every year, but this year is
gonna be tough. The reason we’ve won is that we’ve acted as an umbrella group and
get huge numbers of letters, messages from national and state organizations and
individuals. That’s what’s done it … numbers do count.”

And the bills attacking freedom of choice, in
regards to women’s reproductive rights, was also emphasized.

Using a chalkboard to illustrate the different
circles of importance that conservatives take in regards to the rights of
women, for instance, AU-Oklahoma City chapter president John Loghry was blunt
in his assessment of just where Oklahoma conservative politicians are coming
from when they file legislation like Reynolds’ “Personhood bill,” a bill that
is rejected by most anti-abortion organizations.

And while liberals were noted as having more
diversity of thought in their ranks, conservatives were chided on a number of
occasions by AU members, and not without reason.

Said Loghry: “Conservatives have been so willing to
write off the rights of women, and kind of force women to become broodmares. Broodmares
for the species. So we’ve taken a stance against that.”

Added Loghry: “Conservatives have really recently
made statements saying the product of rape is a gift from God.”

Mike Fuller, a former chapter president of AU in
Oklahoma City, also addressed to group and said the “pro-life” groups forcing
things like “Personhood” or extreme anti-abortion efforts are “pro-forced
pregnancy” groups.

Fuller emphasized that the efforts by these groups,
against reproductive choice, has been “relentless” and appears in state
legislatures around the country is various guises, be it the “Personhood bill”,
the “Heartbeat act,” ultrasound bills or what have you.

“Needless to say, Americans United is opposed to
this Personhood bill and the Protection of Human Life Act bill,” Fuller said,
adding that because there is a religious nature to the bills, and not all
religious traditions see this issue in the same way, that it is not appropriate
and should not be established.

For more information on the Oklahoma City Chapter of
Americans United, go to www.okau.org.

Copyright
2013 Red Dirt Report

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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