Oklahoma Baptists have played a major role in Oklahoma’s heritage for more than a century. The privilege to openly share the Gospel with our neighbors, families and friends is just one of the many reasons why our nation is one of the greatest in history.
As a participant in the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma’s statehood, Oklahoma Baptists celebrated this accomplishment by providing every state legislator and other top state government leaders with a commemorative Centennial Bible. The Bibles were beautifully embossed with the state’s Centennial seal. The gifts were very well received as Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, addressed members of both the state Senate and House of Representatives during a presentation made on the National Day of Prayer.
Little attention was drawn to the event until five months later when 24 Oklahoma lawmakers declined a copy of the Quran from a Muslim advisory council to Gov. Brad Henry. The governor established and appointed the Ethnic American Advisory Council (EAAC) in May of 2004. The EAAC is made up of ethnic American representatives from the Middle East/Near East community. The EAAC was created in part to develop and implement policies, plans and programs for the governor.
Lawmakers were asked in an e-mail if they wished to receive a copy of the Quran, and if not to please feel free to decline. The e-mail claimed that the Quran is the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. One representative who felt free to decline the gift was Rep. Rex Duncan. Duncan indicated he did not want a copy of the Quran because he believes it encourages Muslims to kill nonbelievers.
Marjan Seirafi-Pour, chairman of the governor’s Muslim advisory council, indicated many in the Muslim community were disappointed by the refusals. Keith McArtor, president of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance said, “We are distressed when an entire religion is condemned based on the actions of a few extremists. It is common courtesy to accept a gift and say ‘thank you’ even if it’s not wanted or liked. Elected officials, especially, are encouraged to treat with dignity and respect those whose beliefs and perspectives differ from their own.”
Do Muslims have the right to distribute copies of a book they deem highly valuable? Certainly. After all, this is America. However, government officials should not be required to accept a gift from an appointed governor’s council whose job it is to develop and implement policies, plans and programs for the governor. It is one thing to receive a gift from an independent non-profit religious organization, but another to receive gifts from an official governor appointed council.
Should legislators who accepted the option to decline the gift from the governor appointed council be labeled as bigots, hateful and disrespectful? No!
Upon hearing of the controversy, Jordan issued a statement that provided excellent perspective on the issues. “America’s laws find their roots in the Holy Bible. The freedom to openly practice faith, without discrimination, is one of the beautiful tenets of the American way. Likewise, true freedom provides the right to refuse the generosity of others.”
Exactly! Perhaps everyone involved would do well to consider another gift that has been offered and rejected by many for thousands of years. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Perhaps God is due an explanation from those who have chosen to reject the ultimate gift of His Son? While God may have every right to do so, He does not force anyone to accept His Gift to mankind-His Son and Savior. For those who do accept His Gift, He rewards them with salvation.
It is time to stop the name calling and call on the Name of the One who provides eternal life for all.