The Freedom From Religion Foundation is objecting to an alarming Oklahoma House of Representatives' proposal to promote Christianity.
A concerned citizen contacted FFRF that the chaplain coordinator for the Oklahoma House, state Rep. Chuck Strohm, has proposed unconstitutional guidelines for representatives who wish to sponsor a Chaplain of the Day or Chaplain of the Week.
In the policy letter, Strohm writes that his fellow representatives have been placed in their government positions “by God,” and refers to the invocation as a chance to “seek God’s guidance,” and as “an opportunity to ask for God’s wisdom.” Alarmingly, among the requirements are that the chaplain, who is alternatively referred to as a “minister,” be from the representative’s own place of worship.
In its letter to Strohm, FFRF warns that this requirement, the Christian titles used in the memo and the demographics of the House make it clear that Strohm seeks to exclude non-Christian voices from being heard in the chamber. FFRF emphasizes that prayers are not needed to complete the House’s secular, government business.
“Prayer at government meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive,” writes FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel to Strohm. “The best solution is to discontinue invocations altogether. Representatives are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. They do not need to worship on taxpayers’ time.”
However, if the Oklahoma House chooses to continue hosting prayers, it cannot discriminate against any person wishing to give the prayer on the basis of their religious belief or affiliation. Nonreligious individuals and members of minority religions must also be permitted to deliver invocations.
FFRF is calling the proposed policy institutionalized discrimination against non-Christians, who make up nearly 30 percent of the American public.
“This policy must must be changed to be inclusive and nondiscriminatory,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “This is one of the most disturbing attempts we’ve seen to codify Christian privilege into state legislation.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 32,000 members across the country, including in Oklahoma. It protects the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and educates on matters of nontheism. FFRF is committed to ensuring that nonbelievers are able to deliver secular invocations before legislative bodies.