Senate approves religious freedom bills

Photo credit: Caleb Long.

Release

OKLAHOMA CITY – A pair of measures passed through the Senate this week to better protect the religious freedoms of Oklahomans. Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, carried the bills in the Senate protecting churches and the public displaying of the national motto, “In God We Trust”.

“Our religious freedoms have come under attack in recent years, and there are two areas where that has become very apparent.  During the pandemic, churches were deemed nonessential, and closure was recommended. Then we’ve had the ongoing debate about posting ‘In God We Trust’, even though it’s our national motto,” Bullard said. “These two bills will protect our houses of worship and ensure that the national motto can be displayed with pride. I want to thank the men and women who are standing strong in supporting these bills to protect our religious freedoms.”

House Bill 2648 creates the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, deeming any order or rule issued by any governmental entity pursuant to an emergency that requires closure of places of worship as a substantial burden even if the order or rule is one of general applicability. Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, is the principal House author.

“As someone whose faith is integral to my life, it broke my heart to see stories about people in other areas of the country who were unable to worship as they wanted due to overreaching bureaucratic infringement of their First Amendment rights,” Hill said. “Like the majority of Oklahomans, my faith is as essential as the food I eat or the air I breathe, and I’m grateful my colleagues bravely stood up today for our freedom of religion.”

House Bill 2085 requires the national motto to be displayed in all state buildings. The display’s placement and size would reflect that of the display in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The bill authorizes the Attorney General to prepare and present a legal defense of the display in the event its legality or constitutionality is challenged in court. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, is the principal House author.

“It is important for government to honor history and the values that make America the greatest nation on earth,” McCall said. “I appreciate the Senate’s support for the national motto of our country and all it stands for.”

The two bills now move to the governor’s desk.

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