Monday, August 13, 2007

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.—
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

In March the Oklahoma legislature passed HB 2101. The bill, authored by Speaker of the House Lance Cargill, (R- Harrah) and Senate Pro-Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Bethany) passed both chambers overwhelmingly and was signed into law by Governor Blackjack Henry on May 25th. The measure is known as the Transformational Justice Act. It encourages faith-based groups and other volunteer organizations to take a stronger role in rehabilitating Oklahoma inmates. It also encourages state prisons to partner with faith-based, community and voluntary organizations to help inmates rejoin society and reduce the rate of repeat offenders. Inmates that have less than a year left on their sentence are eligible for the program. The measure is part of the Safe Families Platform of the 2007 House Republican Year of Ideas Agenda. The law set up an eleven-member commission that will assist the Department of Corrections in implementing the program.

The jury is still out on whether inmates can be rehabilitated with the use of psychology. According to Tammi Port, a clinical psychologist, “What a person has done in the past is generally a good predictor of what he will do in the future, and therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that people with a history of criminal behavior are more dangerous that those without that history.” Port goes on to say that criminal psychopaths differ from other violent criminals in their likelihood to re-offend, meaning they are seldom rehabilitated. Criminals normally remain criminals, unless something happens within their heart and mind to change them and their behavior. Psychological counseling may or may not work, but spiritual counseling has been successful in rehabilitation of inmates.

Prison Fellowship, the ministry founded by former Nixon aide Chuck Colson commissioned a study by the University of Pennsylvania back in 2003 that showed religious education very effective in prison rehabilitation. According to the report, graduates of the Prison Fellowships programs were less likely than non-graduates to return to a life of crime. PF’s programs provide spiritual counseling, job training and mentoring to prisoners nearing the end of their sentences. Of the 177 ex-cons who participated in the study, the 75 who underwent biblical education and counseling were half as likely to be reincarcerated. The study concluded that spiritual education and mentoring works to rehabilitated inmates.

On Wednesday, State Representative Al Lindley, D-OKC held a news conference to express his concern that HB 2101 violated the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Lindley, who is in his final term, is not a Constitutional lawyer. He was a state employee- working at the Tax Commission- before he was elected to the legislature. Lindley has spent the last three legislative sessions trying to make sure Oklahomans have a right to get tattooed with a clean needle. His legislative career has been one that has not produced any meaningful legislation.
During his press conference, Lindley used the liberal company line in attacking HB 2101, saying it violated the separation of church and state. The phrase "Separation of Church and State" has been bandied about for so long that many Americans believe that it is actually in the Constitution. In fact, those words appear nowhere in the Constitution. They were in a letter written by Thomas Jeffereson to the Danbury Baptist addressing the Baptists’ concern that the federal government would establish a national religion. Jefferson assured them in the letter the Constitution forbade that, but he also made it perfectfully clear that God was essential to America’s survival.

The liberals have been sucessful at pushing God out of the public square. Public prayer is no longer allowed in schools. The Ten Commanments cannot be displayed in public buildings. Navity scenes and religious symbols are forbidden in the public square. This is certainly not what the framers of the Constitution intended. Even the most liberal recognizes that our founding fathers invoked scripture and referenced God in their writing and speeches. HB 2101 does not violate the First Admendment and anyone with any discernment at all recognizes that. Lindley is an opportunist- trying to get some publicity before he terms out. HB 2101 does not force an inmate to participate in a Bible study or service. It gives him the option and opens the door for these faith-based organizations to carry their life-changing message into the jails and prisons of our state. Perhaps God will open their heart like He did Lydia of Thyatira in Acts 16:14. That would result in true rehabilitation.

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