The Oklahoma Legislature is among the most dysfunctional organizations in the state. That is both unsurprising and impressive – the list of dysfunctional organizations in Oklahoma is lengthy.
However, I think most organizations could manage finding someone to say a prayer before meetings without a lengthy embarrassing controversy.
The Speaker of the House appoints one member of the legislature to oversee the program for appointing and scheduling a Chaplain of the Day. It is usually a job appointed to a representative who cares about the program and doesn’t mind the handling the chore.
It is the Speaker’s decision. There is no committee or input from any other official.
Although, as one representative I asked about the program said, "We can't agree that it's light outside right now, I'm not sure a committee is the best answer."
Unfortunately, Speaker Charles McCall appointed Rep. Chuck Strohm from Jenks to handle it this session. Rather than working as a scheduling agent trying to help other representatives schedule clergy from their districts to speak a blessing and say a prayer, Rep. Strohm decided to use his oversight to set limits on which clergy could serve.
Now he is choosing the chaplain who will serve the House for the remainder of the term.
Democrat Representative Jason Dunnington said he believes this action undermines the state’s core values.
I don’t see how choosing a chaplain undermines the state’s core values of cutting taxes to unsustainably low levels and promising teacher pay raises only to fail to deliver on those promises.
Does the state have another core value?
“The decision to allow one representative to select a single chaplain for the remainder of the 56th legislative session is a mistake that severely undermines Oklahoma’s core values,” said Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City. “Instead of listening to constructive criticism and reversing course on the program changes, the coordinator doubled down.”
That strategy should sound familiar. The leadership’s answer to revenue failures has been severe cuts to state agencies, more lower taxes and more cuts.
Rep. Strohm is just following the same playbook.
I wonder what it is like to be so scared of a Muslim or Jewish teacher speaking before the House takes up the people’s business that you single-handedly destroy and dismantle a chaplain program that has worked well for years.
It might be a lot like watching public schools in the state hiring uncertified teachers and only working them four days a week. I guess once you destroy one institution, destroying another isn’t so difficult.
“Regardless of differing beliefs, our goal should always be to strive for inclusiveness, peace, and love,” said Rep. Cindy Munson, D-Oklahoma City. “We should not live in fear of each other. Oklahomans come from many faith backgrounds, and no faith backgrounds at all, so it is imperative that we allow that representation at the State Capitol. This place is the People’s House, therefore all are welcome at all times.”
That’s a nice thought.
It certainly isn’t a thought shared by those who own a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, but it’s a nice thought.
The only person who can stop the bleeding is Speaker Charles McCall. Rep. Strohm was his appointee and only he can remove him. It is time to find someone who can manage the program well.
Leaders have to be able to recognize and repair problems. The problem is obvious and the Speaker needs to fix it.