Gov. Kevin Stitt and Ryan Walters, his handpicked, anti-education henchman, want all Oklahomans to pay for religious indoctrination with public education monies.

          Some of the first stirrings of American independence arose when some colonists objected to the notion imported from England that they must pay to support their colony’s sanctioned denomination.

          As one who does not tithe, I agree with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others. I do not think we should be forced to support someone else’s faith.

          It is always worth the reminder that Walters, named Secretary of Education by Stitt, augments his $40,000 a year state pay (for doing what since we have a state Department of Education that handles the state’s educational system?) with at least $120,000 in salary from an organization dedicated to plundering public education funds. He is the Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Education.

          Talk about a conflict of interests. The fox in the henhouse would be envious.

          I am not as religious as most Oklahomans. But, that same tithe Stitt and Walters would  demand of me would apply to everyone else as well.

          The innumerable denominations and distinct churches within them speak to wide differences in Christian concepts. Other religions offer even more diverse claims. Do you really want your tax money to promote those you regard as heretics, pagans or merely misguided?

          History is replete with bloody religious wars. And, current events show little improvement. Granted, religion is often misused as an excuse for oppression, but the fact of factions makes it reprehensible for any government – Oklahoma’s included – to force taxpayers to support religions that they do not agree with.

          Among Oklahoma private schools are those identifiable as Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Adventist along with many others with a generic “Christian” designation. Some of those hold obviously fundamentalist outlooks, promising a “Biblical worldview” or the mission to “glorify God.”

          Should Baptists’ money support Catholic schools? Or vice versa? Or Methodists’ money go to either or any others? And, though other religions don’t have recognizable schools on the private school list presently, they certainly could open them.

          I  know folks who were well-educated at Brigham Young University. A school run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints would include a far different history of the settling of the Western Hemisphere – as out of tune with standard history as Genesis is with science.

          Sharia law – a young Iranian Kurdish woman died in police custody last week after the “moral police” arrested her for wearing the wrong kind of veil – is essential to proper Muslim education.

          Anyone saying that I am trying to spread divisiveness ignores the obvious existence of substantial diversity under the religious umbrella. This is one crusade that should unify all groups: “You pay for your faith; I’ll pay for mine.”

          Stitt’s voucher bill (SB 1647) was stopped last session by rural Republican senators who saw it for what it was – an attack on public education funding.

          The best way to stop a repeat attack on public school funds is to vote for Joy Hofmeister for governor and Jena Nelson for state superintendent.

          (Walters also wants to refuse federal school funds, which would cut school budgets by about ten percent.)

          Public education is funded by public funds. Private education should be funded by private funds.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: <> or <>.)

Tithe at church… not the Capitol

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