Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Religious Control not OK

Rep. Cleveland
An Oklahoma legislator let the cat out of the bag with a statement about a proposed law there that would allow public school students, teachers and district staff to greet each other with “traditional phrases” such as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah.”

Supportive politicians have been insisting this was just to reduce complaints about religion. “Wishing them happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, whatever you choose.  This will simply allow that freedom for them to extend that good will," said Oklahoma State Rep. Joe Dorman (D).

Not true, according to Rep. Bobby Cleveland, who wrote the bill.  It would, he said, “create a layer of protection for our public school teachers and staff to freely discuss and celebrate Christmas without worrying about offending someone.”

That’s the reality: a law to allow Christianity to be taught freely in public schools. Forget that “Happy Hanukkah” stuff; that’s for show.  The real intent is to make sure Christianity is crammed down everyone’s throat.

Praying for religious understanding?
It’s not that anyone is really concerned about non-Christian residents.  After all, there are only about 4,650 Jews in the entire state, according to a 2012 population study.  There wouldn’t have been a lot of “Happy Hanukkahs” anyway. 

Not too many “as-salamu alaykum,” the Arabic hello, either. There are only 15,000 Muslims in the state, which has 3.7 million residents. 

The Oklahoma legislature is also not concerned with 300,000 or so African-Americas who call Oklahoma home.  An amendment that would have allowed mention of the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa was eliminated from the bill.

Why even pretend that minorities have rights in a state where 66.56 percent of the population identify themselves as Christian, making Oklahoma the 8th most Christian state in the country?

Heavens, not in Oklahoma, not when the state is in a war.  Just ask Cleveland.  “There is a war on Christians and Christmas, and anyone who would deny that is not paying close enough attention,” he said.

Really?  A war?  Where?  In a country still 72 percent Christian, it’s safe to say that any war is really going to be one-sided.

Actually, the law represents the continual effort to squash those who want the religious freedom promised in the Bill of Rights.  Instead, places like Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and Alabama want to be sure Christianity continues to hold sway even as its control over the minds and hearts of society is fading.

Studies in 2013 found that now 29 percent of Americans "seldom" or "never" attend church services.  People aren’t deserting Christianity in fear of a war.  They are leaving in droves because, armed with knowledge denied them by Christian leaders for so long.  They are finally learning what religious scholars have known for generations: Christian teachings have no basis in fact.  The Holy Bible is simply the anxious musings of anonymous authors trying to make sense of mythology that drifted across the years.
Empty pews are commonplace

People like Cleveland don’t know that.  They’ve closed their ears and minds long ago to anything resembling real knowledge.  Belief sustains them, even in the face of abject reality.  And, by God, they’ll make sure everyone else believes, too.

Except, as the statistics show, a lot of people don’t want to be forced to believe in something they don’t accept, forced to sit through religious activities for something they don’t believe, forced to put up with religious propaganda about a faith they don’t follow.

They have a right not to.

“One of our biggest concerns about the bill is in fact that school districts will engage in behavior that violates the Constitution and then find out that this bill provides them no legal protection in court,” noted Brady Henderson, ACLU legal director.

Oklahoma can pass any law it wants – and obviously will. After all, this is the same state that wanted to place the 10 Commandments on a statue by its statehouse and couldn't understand why other religions wanted equal time.  But there’s a higher court, one that represents the country and has continually disallowed one religion from imposing its views on everyone else.

That has nothing to do with any imaginary war on Christianity, but represents the hard-earned victory against religious bigotry.  That’s the U.S. Constitution’s bag.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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