Friday, July 3, 2015

Oklahoma National Guard Chaplains Are Threatened With Extinction

Chaplain ministers to an injured man aboard the USS Franklin, 1945
  The recent landmark ruling of the Oklahoma Supreme Court has a dire impact on the troops who protect our state. While serving at home & abroad, the soldiers rely heavily upon the essential spiritual support of the clergy within the Oklahoma National Guard. And chaplains have always been a part of every state's militias.
  But a new and terrifying landmark ruling of the current Oklahoma Supreme Court could have devastating consequences for the entire National Guard of Oklahoma. This current court has ruled that one isolated clause of the constitution should be cited at the exclusion of all other articles, acts, and precedences.
  Here is the clause they completely focus upon.
Section II-5:
Public money or property - Use for sectarian purposes
. No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

  In 2011, Oklahomans dedicated Thunderbird Chapel, at Camp Gruber. Previously the Oklahoma National Guard had no  chapel. The building was paid for through private fundraising. But sits on government land, as did the state capitol's Ten Commandments monument.
 The Oklahoma Guard Chaplain corp is already stretched very thin and with the massive PTSD and veteran suicide epidemic, Our current chaplain staff are over-stressed and exhausted from the workload. It has been this way since the initial mobilization into Afghanistan and Iraq. A failure to provide chaplain services to our troops will have dire effects on morale, retention, and recruitment. Read a KOTV report of the problem:

  Is our Oklahoma constitution poorly written? Certainly! The document is so badly flawed that over 150 amendments (about 2 per year) have been added as patchwork to make the document functional even on a rudimentary level. And the wording can even seem self-contradictory. This leads to a judicial field day where jurists can pick and choose any number of justifications for whatever activist notion they can devise. Historians say this clause was added during an era of strong anti-Catholic bias during a massive immigration which made southern protestants feel threatened.
  “After hearing about all the hardships the deployed Soldiers were facing in trying to find places to hold services or to get counseling, having to have services in closets and outside, it became more and more important to us to have this chapel done and ready for them when they returned,” 
  The need is urgent because  the process is arduous and slow, but Oklahoma needs to move in a  resolute manner to clean up the founding state document. HJR1020 is ready for a final Senate vote in order to bring our state back into compliance with an essential and mandatory requirement of the constitution. Namely, the current constitution's requirement for a 20-year tune up. 
"...a new and terrifying landmark ruling of the current Oklahoma Supreme Court could have devastating consequences for the entire National Guard of Oklahoma."
  Our next general election ballot will likely ask us to move forward to meet in a constitutional convention. About half the legislature and some of the judiciary will meet with members of the executive branch and a 'lottery pick' of common citizens in this 90-day session. The resulting reforms will then be presented to another vote of the people.
  Oklahomans have cried out at the federal judiciary for many impositions upon our state. We have decried federal overstepping into states' rights. We have urged several amendments to the federal constitution. But until we take steps to clean up our own Oklahoma documents, we just look like weakened hypocrites to the other 49 members of this old commonwealth.

David Van Risseghem

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