I find it unusually discouraging that Oklahoma City-area state Rep. Sally Kern, the nationally known gay-hate activist, has found solace in the Oklahoma House from her GOP colleagues for a paranoid, conspiratorial bill that attacks the United Nations and the world community.
I know the GOP owns state government right now, but why does it waste its time with the nonsense of Kern and other extremist Republicans who push crazy, needless legislation year after year? By supporting such legislation—I’ve written about the “crazy” issue here and here and here and elsewhere many times—conservatives actually miss opportunities to enhance the integrity and power of their political party.
Oklahoma conservatives who might reasonably push for reasonable change—despite progressive and overall Democratic opposition—lose credibility when they don’t speak out against the craziness. The GOP has a clear majority and voter mandate in Oklahoma, and it’s wasting it on extremism and just plain weirdness.
It also appears now the GOP can’t even get a small tax cut through the legislature this session—an effort I adamantly oppose because of recent budget cuts—or have a serious discussion about taxes in general, but, well, it can sure take time to reward the extremist Kern with a lopsided vote in her favor.
In a way, that’s good news for the state’s Democrats because eventually the conservative extremism will fall in on itself and the GOP here seems intent on making that happen sooner rather than later, but it’s a painful, ugly and embarrassing process. I’ve written about Oklahoma politics since 1982, and I’ve seen a lot through the years from both Republicans and Democrats, but I’ve never seen the sheer volume of needless, extremist bills this session has produced.
Kern’s latest measure, House Bill 1412, would prohibit Oklahoma government agencies from adopting any policies that “restrict property rights” that might be traced to Agenda 21, a 1992, non-binding United Nations initiative dealing with sustainability and poverty. Note that it’s “non-binding,” and note, too, that obviously it has absolutely nothing to do with property in Oklahoma.
Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, a Republican, Bill Clinton, a Democrat and George W. Bush, a Republican, all endorsed it at some level. The initiative is so innocuous and comes with absolutely no power of enforcement in any country at any time, and it’s so old, that it’s incredibly bizarre that conservative extremists in the national GOP and the right-wing media are getting traction on this hyperbolic stunt.
This initiative addresses subjects like promoting walking through the building of sidewalks and safe water supplies, hardly the usual political fare of right-wingers here in Oklahoma. But it’s been jazzed up into some conspiracy about the United Nations. It’s mindless and bizarre.
Unfortunately, the bill passed by a 67-17 vote in the House last week and might be considered by the Senate. Some in the right-wing here might see the Agenda-21 hysteria as a way to scare people into voting for Republicans or for ultra-conservative Democrats. In the end, the bill probably means nothing more than that, but it could have harmful, unintended consequences. Agenda 21 is so broad that many basic infrastructure issues could be conceivably tied to it. Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa leaders, in particular, should be concerned that the right-wing in the future could use the bill as an ideological bludgeon.
Kern once equated gay people with terrorists and denigrated women and minorities, and she has been a source of embarrassment for the state’s image, but she’s still getting support for her extremism by GOP leaders. For me, this proves some of these leaders, despite the perfunctory lip service, simply don’t care about the state.
So much needs to be improved in this state, and this is what Oklahomans get. It’s such a waste of time. It’s sad, tragic, and I wonder how much this dominant Republican era, which will pass into oblivion one day, will set the state back for the long-term in terms of things that really matter, such as education, infrastructure, economic development and health concerns.
State Rep. Sally Kern’s immediate and vocal support for a business executive’s remarks criticizing same-sex marriage is about as predictable as it gets, but it’s still another embarrassment for Oklahoma on the national and international stage.
Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A restaurants, purveyors of greasy, fried chicken sandwiches, waffle fries, sugared soft drinks and high-calorie desserts, recently said his company is opposed to same-sex marriage, which sparked calls for boycotts of his restaurants among equality groups and even some big-city mayors.
Cathy’s remarks can be construed as a horrible business decision at the very least, but what can you expect from a company that has a mission statement that includes this language: "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A." The company’s founder, S. Truett Cathy, is a right-wing religious ideologue of the Southern Baptist variety, and the company’s restaurants are even closed on Sundays as “a way of honoring God.”
See, S. Truett Cathy wants you to have some God with your grease:
I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities. One of the most visible examples of this is our decision to close on Sunday. Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business.
Of course, Oklahoma City’s Kern, another right-wing religious ideologue, likes her God with all the fixings, too, so she issued a statement about Cathy’s remarks opposing same sex marriage. According to a media report, Kern said, “We need to support a business [that] is willing to take a stand for those values that Oklahomans believe and support.” She apparently also said, “We are in a culture war, and people need to start getting involved.”
Kern is infamous throughout the world for once equating homosexuality with terrorism. She has also argued on the Oklahoma House floor that people of color and women don’t work as hard as men or, by logical extension, white men.
Her remarks supporting Chick-fil-A’s corporate bigotry are only worth noting because they are part of a pattern of controversial statements that make Oklahoma seem backwards and archaic.
Here’s an idea: Since Kern is so obsessed about homosexuality, why doesn’t she travel to places that actually allow same-sex marriage and fight her “culture war” where it really matters? Inciting the right-wing religious robots here doesn’t do much for her cause, and it only damages the state’s image in the process.
Meanwhile, the mayors of Boston and Chicago have both vowed to prevent Chick-fil-A expansion in their cities because of the company’s same-sex marriage stance, which could obviously hurt overall sales of fried chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. The San Francisco mayor has also warned Chick-fil-A to stay away from his city.
Here’s some nutritional information for a religiously inspired Chick-fil-A Deluxe Chicken sandwich, according to calorie count:
Total Fat: 16g
You want some heavenly waffle fries with that?
Total Fat: 13g
Surely, you’ll want to wash down all that Godly goodness with a large Jesus-Is-Lord Coca Cola:
Let’s top that off with an amen-sister! Fudge Brownie Sundae:
Hallelujah! Can I get some extra bigotry with that?
Controversial lawmaker state Rep. Sally Kern is pushing a bill again this legislative session that would allow creationist ideas, such as the so-called intelligent design theory, into the state’s science classrooms.
House Bill 1551, which I’ve written about before, has passed the Common Education Committee on a 9 to 7 vote and could be heard by the full House soon. It’s a bad bill that is nothing more than religious intrusion into education, and, if passed, will almost certainly lead to an expensive lawsuit. The bill would require state educational authorities to dumb down its public school students, making them less prepared for college or work training.
Kern, pictured right, an Oklahoma City Republican, is nationally known for her comments in recent years disparaging gay people, African Americans and women. She’s the wife of a local Baptist minister, and often blends Christian fundamentalism with her office. Note her “Proclamation for Morality.” This bill is just another part of her religious crusade.
Kern has generated a tremendous amount of bad publicity for Oklahoma, and HB 1551 is just another example of a flagrant religious gesture that will be mocked and ridiculed inside and outside the state.
Let’s take a close look at the bill, which is a piece of disingenuous subterfuge. It’s called the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” which is just the opposite of what it represents. A title more representative of what the bill does would be “The Death of Academic Freedom Act” because it would replace critical inquiry with religious precepts.
The bill notes that the legislature finds “that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics can cause controversy.” It mentions these areas, in particular: biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
The phrase “can cause controversy” is strikingly nebulous. There’s no scientific controversy over these topics, only religious or political controversy, especially with the theory of evolution. In addition, “can cause controversy” could apply to just about anything in a school’s curriculum, including interpretations of history or political systems. How can we possibly define “can cause controversy”? Note the modifying “can.” It “can” but then again it might not.
The bill notes that “some teachers may be unsure” about how to present information on “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” Again, note the qualifying “may.” Are teachers “unsure” or not? So they “MAY be unsure” about something that “CAN cause controversy.”
Even though the bill qualifies the reason for its intent, it then seemingly gets more declarative:
Educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies.
What controversies? What are the “effective ways” to help teachers with these “can cause” controversies? It’s just another blanket statement that could be interpreted in a myriad number of ways.
The bill also protects students who may feel compelled, for whatever reason, to reject the scientific method:
Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories.
But how exactly would a student be penalized in the first place?
The bill’s language and intent is vague because it’s undoubtedly a disingenuous attempt to bring religious ideas, such as intelligent design, into the science classroom. Intelligent design, which has been invalidated as science by a federal court, argues that the natural world is so complicated only a “designer” (i.e., wink, wink, a god) could be responsible for it. Intelligent design is just creationism dressed up in faux scientific jargon. It is NOT a scientific counter to the theory of evolution.
I’ve given my reasons against HB 1551 in a previous post. To summarize, there’s no scientific controversy over the topics the bill addresses, teachers will feel forced to present religious concepts in science classroom as “controversies,” students will waste valuable class time on issues better addressed at a church, and the state’s image will suffer. The bill would also make it more difficult for the state to produce and attract physicians and medical researchers. This is in a state with poor national medical rankings and a low college graduation rate.
The bill is similar to one passed recently in Louisiana. That bill resulted in a science organization cancelling its convention in New Orleans and a petition signed by 75 Nobel Laureates calling for its repeal. The city of New Orleans has voted in favor of repealing the law, and a state senator has filed a bill to repeal it as well.
Do we really need this type of negative publicity and energy in Oklahoma?
Here are the organizations that have already lined up to oppose the bill: Oklahoma Academy of Science, Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science education, Oklahoma Mainstream Baptists, OKC and Tulsa Interfaith Alliances and most major national science organizations, which includes the largest scientific organization in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Here is the contact email information for the House Republican leadership:
State Rep. Kris Steele, Speaker of the House, email@example.com
State Rep. Jeffrey Hickman, Speaker Pro Tem, firstname.lastname@example.org
State Rep. Dale dewitt, Majority Floor Leader, email@example.com
State Rep. Harold Wright, Deputy Floor Leader, firstname.lastname@example.org
State Rep. Welson Watson, Majority Caucus Chair, email@example.com
This is a bad bill that will do irreparable harm to Oklahoma. A similar bill, SB 1742, sponsored by state Sen. Josh Brecheen, is now dormant. I wrote about that bill here.