BY DAVID PERRYMAN
In the 1939 MGM classic, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale and her three traveling companions visited the Emerald City each seeking solutions to their unique situations. The wizard seized upon the opportunity to manipulate the group into ridding him of his nemesis. After completing the dangerous task assigned to them, the four return to the wizard to claim their rewards.
Entering the throne room, they were rebuffed and belittled by a huge fiery apparition that warned them not to “arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz.” When Dorothy challenged the massive glowing face for not keeping its promises, it loudly proclaimed, “Do you presume to criticize the great Oz? You ungrateful creatures! Think yourselves lucky that I am giving you audience tomorrow instead of 20 years from now.”
During the height of the intimidation, Toto, Dorothy’s dog, tugged on a side curtain exposing a mere mortal busily controlling the apparition with a panel of switches and levers and a loud speaker to amplify his voice.
Even when he realized that he had been discovered, the “wizard” attempted to continue the fraud by declaring, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain … the great and powerful Oz has spoken.”
Just like the wizard was a master at fraud and manipulation, there are groups and organizations that are using the Ten Commandments’ monument controversy to convince Oklahomans that repealing Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Bill of Rights would be a good thing.
Here is the precise language: “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.”
This rule that tax money and property cannot be given to churches, mosques, parishes or other religious organizations has been part of Oklahoma’s Constitution since Sept. 17, 1907 when it was approved by 71% of the voters in the Twin Territories.
While Oklahomans are being told that it must be repealed to allow the Ten Commandments monument to stay on the grounds of the State Capitol, the real story is not about the Ten Commandments.
The real story is that groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC] and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs [OCPA] have attempted for years to raid public education dollars and divert them to private schools.
Long before the Ten Commandments monument was placed at the Capitol, these groups identified Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Bill of Rights as the legal restriction that had to be repealed before school vouchers and other public tax dollars could be diverted to private schools.
We often hear about “unintended consequences.” Today, these “great and powerful” groups are speaking and their agenda is one of “intended consequences.”
From behind the curtain they seek to manipulate God-fearing Democrats and Republicans from all across the state into repealing the very section in our Constitution that exists to protect our public tax dollars from being funneled to “systems of religion,” “religious teachers” and “sectarian institutions” that are free to teach doctrines of theology to which we may not ascribe.
As always, it is important to pay attention to the man behind the curtain.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, serves District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives