Monday, May 7, 2018

Bills to Protect Liberties Pass House; By State Rep. John Bennett


I was author or co-author on several bills that passed the House in the final days of this year’s legislative session that will protect liberties sacred to all Americans.

First is House Bill 1140, which shields private child-placing agencies from having their licenses denied or revoked when adhering to their religious or moral convictions. This bill was made controversial by some who claim it discriminates against same-sex couples who want to foster or adopt children. Those adoptions are still allowed under current law, however. This bill does not discriminate against any child or adult from the traditional placement processes, nor does it preclude qualified Oklahomans from opening their homes to children. The measure does, however, ensure that private placement services, such as Catholic Charities, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children and others, will be protected when they exercise their religious or moral convictions when placing children for adoption or into foster homes. States passing similar measures have seen increased child placement. States where such protections have not been implemented have seen private agencies close, slowing the rate of child placement.

House Bill 2177 will allow, but not mandate, the display of the Ten Commandments alongside other historically significant founding documents, such as the U.S. or Oklahoma Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta or others in state buildings, public schools or on other public property. 

The Ten Commandments are deeply imbedded in our national culture and a basis for our nation’s laws. The display of the commandments is both legal and historical. They have been displayed in U.S. institutions since the very founding of our nation. They are now displayed in the National Archives and the U.S. Supreme Court as well as in many state capitols, courthouses and legislative buildings across the country. Further, Americans recognize the important contributions made to our society by the Ten Commandments. This is not advocating for religion but rather recognizing a significant historical contribution for our nation.

Senate Bill 1212, a constitutional carry bill, allows Oklahoma residents who meet the legal requirements to carry firearms to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms without having to pay additional licensing and permit fees. Other constitutionally protected rights, such as voting, free speech and the free exercise of religion don’t require citizens of the U.S. to pay for a special license or background check. The Second Amendment is clear that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. This legislation does that.

Senate Bill 1267, the Defunding Fetal-Body-Parts Trafficking Act, prohibits reimbursement through Medicaid or any other federal or state program if a provider, or any affiliate of that provider, has been found guilty of trafficking fetal body parts. The bill also requires the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to publish any investigative findings and issue a determination within 60 days of receiving such a complaint. Taxpayer money should not be used to fund organizations that participate in this barbarous practice, and I’m glad to lend my name to stop this.

These are just a few of the ways I fought this year to ensure Oklahomans remain free to observe their God-given rights under the Constitution of the United States of America and to be free from paying for actions that violate our own consciences. All of these bills have been sent to the governor and await her signature. I would encourage everyone to contact her and encourage her to sign these into law.

It’s time for me to pass my torch to another to serve in the state Legislature. I pray whoever is elected will be someone who fights for these same rights. It’s been an honor to serve you. God Bless you, and God bless America.

John Bennett represents Oklahoma House District 2. He can be reached at (405) 557-7315 or John.Bennett@okhouse.gov.


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