2020-02-26 ne-steagall jay

Steagall

OKLAHOMA CITY — Separation of church and state does not and cannot exist in the United States, the lawmaker carrying a bill that would require that “In God We Trust” be “prominently” displayed in all state-owned buildings told an Oklahoma House of Representatives committee on Tuesday.

“Our government is based on the idea that our inalienable rights are granted to us by our creator,” said Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon. “It is impossible to separate church from state. And our founders said we should not do that, actually.”

The proof, he said, was on the money in everyone’s pockets and purses.

Steagall was presenting House Bill 3817, by Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, to the House Rules Committee. The bill specifies that the “placement and size of (each) display shall be in keeping with the placement and size of the display of the national motto in the United States Capitol Visitor Center.”

That display is 4 feet high and 70 feet wide. It was installed about 10 years ago.

State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City, who briefly sparred with Steagall, said he has “a real problem with us adopting things that put God front and center in our government when the reality is the God I serve wants to be front and center in my life, not on my buildings.”

According to reports, the push to display “In God We Trust” on as many government buildings as possible is driven largely by WallBuilders, an evangelical group whose founder, Oral Roberts University graduate David Barton, argued that the religious liberties of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution apply only to Christians and possibly Jews and Muslims.

Historians say the founders disagreed widely on religion and government. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the phrase to which Steagall referred, also coined the phrase “separation of church and state” and was one of its staunchest supporters.

“In God We Trust” did not become the national motto until 1956, although it has appeared on most U.S. coins since the Civil War. “E Pluribus Unum” — “Out of many, one” — also appears on all U.S. coinage. It was first used on coins in 1795, having been incorporated into the national seal in 1782, thus predating even the Constitution.

HB 3817 advanced from the committee on a 5-2 vote and moves to the House floor. It was one of dozens heard Tuesday as lawmakers worked to meet Thursday’s deadline for getting House bills out of committee.

The Public Health Committee advanced bills that would make it easier for parents to bypass required vaccinations for their children and harder to remove the dying from life support.

HB 4133, presented by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, would require schools to make sure parents know how to file for exemptions from mandatory vaccinations.

Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, a registered advanced practice nurse, called it “hypocrisy” for the Public Health Committee to promote legislation that might cause children not to be vaccinated, but the measure passed anyway — with the stipulation that in its final form information given to parents would also include the advantages of vaccination.

HB 2588, by Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Pawhuska, would require court approval to take someone off life support unless they have an advance directive.

Not advancing was HB 3898, by Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston. It would have doubled the cap on the Grand River Dam Authority’s debt limit and OK’d the GRDA headquarters’ move from Vinita to near Chouteau in exchange for a 10% cut in the state-owned utility’s net revenue.

The bill failed on a 13-13 vote, but a Senate version of the bill cleared committee last week.


Bills proposed for 2020 in Oklahoma


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Randy Krehbiel

918-581-8365

randy.krehbiel

@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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