Scattered among the state Capitol crowd gathered to sign Rep. Sally Kern's Oklahoma Citizens' Proclamation for Morality on July 2 were some young Oklahomans, including a pastor, an educator and a political candidate. Kern's press conference drew more than 250 people, including protesters, but the signatories were overwhelmingly over 50, white and male.
Matt Jackson is a Republican who plans to run for the Oklahoma Senate for District 30 in 2010. That district, currently held by Sen. Glenn Coffee, who is term-limited, encompasses parts of the northwest metro. Jackson said he was signing the proclamation because he believed Kern was stirring a "debate that needs to be had."
"I have a strong belief that the tenets of the Judeo-Christian tradition are important," he said, "and I don't think morality is a bad thing to discuss."
Jackson, an Oklahoma City native who graduated from Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School and Northeastern State University, is married with three small children, and is an active member of Christ the King Catholic parish in Oklahoma City.
"One of the main reasons I'm running for office is to get morality back into government," Jackson said. "We've seen this country slide into moral decay, and I think an emphasis on our duties to God, family and country are important to stop that slide."
As a Catholic, Jackson technically would be included among the group of people Kern is trying to rally in her proclamation. However, his Bible is a different Bible than the one Kern cites. Additionally, her proclamation identifies the signatories as "believers in the One True God and His only Son," and calls for a "national awakening of righteousness and Christian renewal."
It is the language of exclusion in the proclamation that troubles Chuck Thornton, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which held a press conference after Kern's appearance.
"This is a time in our country when we ought to be rallying everyone," Thornton said. "Rep. Kern tosses aside the Jewish and Islamic communities, as well as any other religious community who doesn't believe like she does. We are in tough times, and those are times when Americans pull together, people of any or no faith."
Thornton said he was also troubled by the dishonesty of Kern's proclamation. "She uses three questionable quotes, several quotes aren't from founders of the country," he said, referring to a series of quotations from founding fathers and others. "And, she misrepresents President Obama. Most importantly, though, I haven't seen scapegoating like this since pre-World War II Germany. Where in this list of horribles are the Wall Street bankers and the government regulators who were asleep at the switch?"
Kern said she had been made aware that some of the quotes were questionable, but defended their inclusion: "The statements are very much in line with what Madison and Henry said in other places."
James Madison, who is quoted once in the proclamation, is a favorite of secularists and separationists because of his well-documented antipathy to government support of religion. The Madison quote and another included quote attributed to Patrick Henry have been disputed by some historians.
Several signatories, including Cameron Whaley, were untroubled by inaccuracies. Whaley, 28, is the new senior pastor of Canadian Valley Baptist Church in Yukon. He said he was signing because he believed in what the proclamation stands for and because he doesn't believe the GLBT lifestyle should be honored by the nation or our president.
"I'm here to stand up for religious freedom," he said. "I don't want to sit idly by and watch our nation suffer the consequences of sin."
In response to questions about the proclamation's accuracy, Whaley responded, "How do I know it's inaccurate? How do I know that what you're saying is true?"
Several signatories reported signing the document because of general principles like morality or religious freedom, and not for the specifics. Chad Christiansen, a Christian educator with Character First!, said he was unaware of inaccuracies or the exclusion of other faith groups.
"We wanted to affirm our need as Christians to realize that we've been passive, and that we, as a nation, have drifted a long way away from our founders' intent," Christiansen said. "I don't think of Rep. Kern as trying to alienate other groups."
Kern finished the day by answering questions about divisiveness and her intent with the proclamation.
"This was never meant to divide people," Kern said. "We're trying to stir up the majority of people. We want the church to be salt and light." "Greg Horton