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Conventional Thinking: Courting disaster

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has done it again. They were given a chance to retract their original order to remove the 10 Commandments monument at the State Capitol. Instead they chose to reaffirm their decision, completely ignoring sound legal arguments from our Attorney General, not to mention the historical importance of the 10 Commandments, and once again showing that Oklahoma has some of the nation’s most activist judges.

This is one of many outrageous decisions from our state’s Supreme Court. Others included the striking down of duly passed pro-life laws.

In 2012, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a statute that would have required abortionists to show an ultrasound to the mother before an abortion could be performed. An almost identical Texas law was upheld by a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 2014, Oklahoma passed Senate Bill 1848, which requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital that the Oklahoma Supreme Court tossed out.

The list goes on. So what can we do about a Supreme Court so out of step with Oklahoma?

// Don’t retain bad judges

More people need to “do their homework” before voting on the rentention of judges, taking time to review the voting records of judges. To the best of our abilities, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee will highlight any significant court rulings, to make the public more informed.

// Remove bad laws

The next logical step would be to look at what laws are being used by the activist judges. There is a Legislative effort forthcoming in 2016 to remove the Blaine Amendment on which the 10 Commandments case was decided.

The amendment in question states, “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 or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”

The Blaine Amendment has become a sort of legal trump card in the hands of activist judges to remove religion from the public square.

If we remove or replace the Blaine Amendment, that would undercut this bad decision and maybe others.

// Reform the judiciary

The Supreme Court used the Blaine Amendment this time. Next time, they might find another law to justify removing religion from society. We still have the fundamental problem of consistently bad rulings from our judges.

This brings us to the last step, the larger step, which is to review the entire judicial system. Unlike the Federal level where the President nominates justices, Oklahoma has an arcane, archaic system that has not been significantly reformed for decades in which the Oklahoma Bar Association has an inordinate say-so in who is considered for judicial roles.

The Oklahoma Legislature can, and should, review the system and develop a better way to select judges.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has had its chances to do what is right. We can no longer ignore the damaging effects to the soul of this state from a decision like this. It’s time to review Oklahoma’s judiciary.

Brian Hobbs

Author: Brian Hobbs

Brian is editor of The Baptist Messenger.

View more articles by Brian Hobbs.

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  • Aaron McDonald

    So, let me get this straight; your editorial starts off decrying the (lawful) actions of the Oklahoma Supreme Court for not ignoring the Oklahoma Constitution and allowing an unlawful monument on the Capital Grounds. Then, you go on to say how we need to take action against activist judges and change the way we appoint judges in Oklahoma because these activists are ignoring the laws of Oklahoma by overturning duly passed laws in favor of their own personal opinions.
    You can’t have it both ways, Mr. Hobbs. Either you praise the Court when it upholds the laws of Oklahoma, even though you may not agree with it, or you don’t. Speaking out of both sides of your mouth is no way bring people to your side of an argument. I would implore you as a brother in Christ to pray about what you’ve written here and see the hypocrisy of your statements and attitudes. – Aaron

    • Brian Hobbs

      Bro. Aaron,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I have to disagree respectfully. The reason the Oklahoma Supreme Court got the 10 Commandments order wrong is two-fold. First, the 10 Commandments transcend a purely religious display, as they have major significance historically and legally. Secondly, the Blaine Amendment would not apply here, even if they did, because the monument was paid for with private, not public funds (though I cannot help but wonder if public funds will have to be used to dismantle and remove the display). My piece is saying that this is one of many poor decisions from our Court and we deserve better. The Blaine Amendment, meanwhile, is an outdated, bad law and ought to be removed, unlike the monument. Lastly, your statement about hypocrisy is a little strong and misplaced. Hypocrisy is saying one thing and believing another, or speaking from behind a mask. What I think you meant to say is that you think I was being inconsistent. For the reasons stated above, I stand by what I wrote, which was entirely consistent. Thanks again for reading.

      • Aaron McDonald

        Your own article betrays your contention that the Blaine Ammendment doens’t apply. You rightly quoted it as saying, “no public money or property shall ever be approprirated, applied, donated directly or indirectly…” The reason, then, that the Court got it right here is because the place where the momument is placed is public land. Whether or not the Blaine Ammendment is a good law is irrelevent as far as the legality of the placement of the monument.
        My point is that you are indeed “inconsistant” because you want to have it both ways. The thought that the 10 Commandments “transcend a purely religious display” is irrelevent. It is still a religious display. Also, where the funds came from to build the monument is irrelevent because of the property on which the monument appears.
        Let me say here that you and I are on the same side of the Blaine Ammendment. I think it is poorly written and should be removed. However, my personal feelings on it do not negate the fact that we are a State that has laws that must be enforced. One cannot say, and retain any credibility, that ignoring the law in one instance because it suits our sensabilities is a good thing while at the same time say that ignoring another law, or striking one down, is a bad thing because it offends one’s morality. That is entirely inconsistant.
        Again, I would emplore you to think about what you’ve written against the plain words of the Blaine Ammendment – “no publice money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated directly or indirectly…” It’s as plain as day. Work to get rid of the ammendment, but don’t decry the Court for actually doing their job. – Aaron

      • Brian Hobbs

        To be fair, you’re not quoting the whole Blaine amendment:

        “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 or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”

        The key here is not only “no public money” (which was not used) or even “property” (which the Legislature duly passed in 2009 with bipartisan support and Governor’s approval).

        The key phrase, the hinge point of my disagreement with them (and apparently you) is the phrase “support any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion.”

        The 10 Commandments clearly are recognized by more than one religion (and major ones); but more than that, the Founders recognized that they transcend religion and are historical and legal. Moses holding the 10 Commandments is on the U.S. Supreme Court building and so forth. So the argument stands as clear as day: the Oklahoma Supreme Court took as narrow of view as possible of the 10
        Commandments—in ways that other states like Texas have not might I add—and once again used Blaine as a trump card to get rid of a public display that is religious, historical and legal.

        I do respect the argument you are trying to make Aaron, but I think we have to look at the phrase “religion” as it reads, not as the Courts want it to. Be that as it is, it’s past time for Blaine to go.

      • Aaron McDonald

        Again, your argument defeats itself. Stating that the 10 Commandments are a religious item and then stating that they are also (rightly) more than that doesn’t negate the first statement. The Blaine Amendment is clear. And, to be fair, I didn’t need to quote the entire amendment.
        Additionally, the Oklahoma Legislature would have been barred in 2009 by the Blaine Amendment from allowing the use of the Capital Grounds for this purpose. It matters not what any other state has done. Oklahoma law is clear and the Blaine Amendment was properly applied in this case.
        Is the Blaine Amendment bad law? Absolutely! But until it is removed, these sorts of things will, unfortunately, continue to happen. That’s the fight to take up. Not this.
        You are a fine journalist and I love reading a lot of what you write. However, words have meaning and we must look at the words of the Blaine Amendment – no public money or land can be used in this way. Let’s work to remove the amendment not urge the Court to ignore it.

      • Brian Hobbs

        Thanks, Aaron. I am certainly glad we can find points of agreement. To provide concluding remarks on our conversation, I respect the points you are making. And I will continue to stand with the 2009 Legislature, Attorney General Pruitt and the two dissenting Oklahoma Supreme Court justices who believe the monument could have stayed, because of its importance legally/morally/historically, not merely religiously. At any rate, we greatly appreciate your posting and commenting on the Messenger site, Aaron, and feel free to contact me directly as well regarding any future topics or articles. May the Lord bless you…

    • Terry

      ,Aaron, I think we need to see which side of the law the judges stand on. If they don’t like the status quo, they make new law and then use them to make their decisions or some even dictate law from the bench. For example, the 4 judges that voted against the approval of homosexual marriage said it was not constitutional. That means the others made law from the bench. These laws, such as the Blaine Amendment, are changing the face of Oklahoma and America. They have no constitutional support and therefore should be overturned. Thanks for listening.

  • Terry

    Great article. It amazes me how we have let a new “philosophy” overtake our nation and our state. Some may as how this has happened and, as a pastor for 30 years, I am of the opinion that preachers have quit addressing the situations we face with a Biblical mandate. Adrian Rogers sure spoke on the issues but some pastors think they should just preach the gospel and not instruct in daily living. I am not down on pastors, I am one, but we have to preach the whole truth so people can know and discern. Of course, John the Baptist lost his head over this and Jesus was crucified so if you are to be bold, be aware of the possibilities!

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