Statement in Opposition to Oklahoma HB 1598

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance is deeply disappointed in yesterday’s action by the Children, Youth, and Family Services Committee (Rep Sally Kern, Chair) of the Oklahoma House of Representatives in which they amended and then approved HB 1598 the “Parental and Family Rights in Counseling Protection Act.” Our Executive Director, Rev Bob Lawrence, released the following statement:

As has been pointed out by Oklahoma-based physician’s groups, social worker’s groups, educator’s groups, psychiatric and psychological professional groups, religious organizations, and others, HB 1598, even as amended, is a dangerous piece of legislation that will put the children of the state of Oklahoma at risk of abuse. This legislation, written by Rep. Sally Kern, removes the authority of the state to provide oversight of a questionable therapeutic practice that has absolutely no scientifically-proven effectiveness, and has been soundly denounced by every national organization of health professionals including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers. Rather than keep the children of our state safe, and increase oversight of a potentially dangerous treatment strategy called “conversion therapy” (designed to change a person’s sexual orientation), this bill eliminates state oversight. There are countless PROVEN treatment strategies that are overseen and monitored by our state, and this legislation seeks to remove oversight on one with absolutely no proven results.

With no scientific backing of the treatment, we are left wondering why Rep. Kern (and now her committee) has selected this one treatment to be handled differently than any other treatment offered to any resident of this state. Based upon her extensive previous comments, one cannot help but be convinced it is because she believes homosexuality is a sin. In other words, Rep Kern is choosing to impose her faith on all citizens of the state of Oklahoma, even though it is in direct opposition to the faith of countless Oklahomans.

Many, if not most, of the major religious organizations in the USA have publicly declared their support for same-gender relationships. Many, if not most, religious scholars agree that modern analysis of the ancient texts upon which our Judeao-Christian traditions are based does not support a condemnation of same-gender love. So, although it may be a popular opinion (and one expressed by Rep. Kern) that homosexuality is a sin, among our religious leaders, there exists a strong belief to the contrary. I do not state this to prove that Rep. Kern is incorrect in her beliefs. Rather, I do so to point out that even our religious scholars and denominational leaders do not agree on whether or not homosexuality is a sin. Why is Rep. Kern attempting to impose her belief on all citizens of this state, even citizens who share her Christian faith but disagree with her on this point?

Any time any legislation, public policy, government entity, or corporate position imposes one faith over the faiths of others, the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance is concerned. We are strong supporters of the First Amendment and the rights of each citizen of this country to be able to freely practice their own religion. When we legislate one sincerely-held religious view over the objections of another sincerely-held religious view, we are using the power of government to force citizens to follow just one religious view. From the perspective of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, that is equivalent to the establishment of a religion, something the First Amendment to the US Constitution specifically forbids.

In addition to asserting that her particular religious belief should be imposed upon the people of the state of Oklahoma, Rep. Kern embarks on a rather twisted and self-absorbed sense of justice when, after specifying in the legislation that “No state government or any political subdivision thereof or any agency of the government or political subdivision thereof shall prohibit or restrict any mental health provider…” her own legislation then proceeds to prohibit or restrict the actions of mental health providers. It is the height of hubris for Rep. Kern to assert that nobody can prohibit or restrict except her.

To make this particular piece of legislation even more egregious, Rep. Kern has included an emergency declaration that states, in its entirety:

“It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.”

Considering there is currently no legislative or administrative action pending at any level of any government in our state that would limit the practice of such therapies, what is the emergency?

The principles upon which our country and this state were founded include the notion of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” In the absence of any scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of the therapies Rep. Kern is trying to protect; in the absence of any attempt by any governmental entity in this state to restrict any such therapies (beyond the standard norms by which all therapies are treated); in the absence of any clear consensus among religious leaders; and, most importantly, in the presence of a real and present danger to the children of this state, one cannot help but be convinced that Rep. Kern would prefer a government, “of one person, by one person, and forced on all people.” On behalf of the children of this state whom Rep. Kern is willing to put in danger so she can make an ideological point, we must object.

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