Sunday, March 29, 2020

Milton Martin & Tom Coburn made a difference! Are we?

Weekly Opinion Editorial
Make a Difference!
by Steve Fair

     Last week two men died who influenced my life.  The first was Milton Martin.  Martin was a native Texan who became a Baptist missionary to Mexico.  Martin served for 40 plus years in southern Mexico and was responsible for the establishment of over 200 congregations.  In 1980, I traveled with Milton, his son Bruce (also a missionary) and Larry Adkisson, a Ft. Worth pastor friend, to the Mexico state of  Chiapas, specifically the small town of Challan.  Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico, bordering Guatemala.  Larry and I taught a series on the principles of Christian music to the Tzotzil tribal pastors over a three day conference.  The meetings were held in a crude structure, which had no running water or electricity.  Most of the pastors didn’t speak Spanish, so speaking through two translators was a challenge.  The four of us flew 900 miles into the small village by bush plane.   I had always supported missions, but I had never seen it done in person.  Milton Martin was the real deal.  He lived the gospel and his dedication and the dedication of the poor people to the cause of Christ changed my life.  In 1999, I was fortunate to travel back when the Tzotzil honored Martin for his thirty plus years of ministry to their people.  Those experiences changed my perspective on missions.  I saw missions in action and it affected both my giving and my attitude toward foreign missions and missionaries.
    The second was Dr. Tom Coburn.  Coburn died on Saturday after a long battle with cancer.  Dr. Tom served in the U.S. House for six years and in the U.S. Senate for ten years.  Coburn was known as ‘Dr. No,’ in the Senate because he opposed fiscal irresponsibility.  His successful crusade against Senate earmarks- also known as ‘re-lection tokens’- angered some Republicans, but it removed a practice that primarily benefited incumbents.  Coburn was a passionate advocate for Congressional term limits and a balanced budget amendment.  He believed an Article Five convention was the only way to it done.  I agreed with the need for a balanced budget amendment and term limits, but believed (and still do) that an Article Five convention was not the right vehicle.  Dr. Tom and I wrote opposing op/eds that appeared in newspapers throughout Oklahoma on our positions on an Article Five.  While irritated at me for not agreeing with him, Coburn was never mean spirited.  During one conversation with Dr. Tom he said, “Steve, it is our only hope (the Article Five) to get it done.  The people we have in Washington will never pass term limits and a balanced budget amendment.  They spend all their time running for re-election.”    He later told me he thought America may have ‘went past the point of no return’ with our ballooning national debt and lack of fiscal responsibility.  I hope the good doctor was wrong. 
    To my knowledge, Milton Martin and Tom Coburn didn’t know each other, but they shared many common characteristics.  They were both genuine individuals and lived out their convictions.  They were transparent, plain- spoken and neither suffered fools.  They both made a difference in people’s lives, including mine. I count it a great blessing to have known both men, who were both believers and now reside in heaven.    Martin and Coburn are great examples to us to make a difference during our time on earth.

Sunday, March 22, 2020


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

          COVID-19 has dominated the news in the last week.  Over 335,000 people have been infected worldwide.  14,611 have died, 5,500 in Italy alone.  In the United States, 34,000 have tested positive with 423 deaths.  In Oklahoma, 67 people have tested positive and 2 people have died.    
     Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus.
The disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. You can protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding close contact (6 feet) with people who are unwell.
   Government, at all levels, sprang into action.  President Trump asked Americans to practice ‘social distancing,’ Bars, restaurants, and gyms across the country were closed, events canceled. Grocery store shelves are bare after consumers panic purchased anything and everything, but especially toilet paper.
      Skeptics contend COVID-19 is overblown and that it is nothing more than the flu.  The CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says underestimating COVID-19 is a mistake. Facuci specifically said young people need to take it more seriously. Three thoughts:
     First, this is not a time for panic and hysterical.  The reasoning behind the ‘social distancing’ orders from government are sound.  A virus spreads by human interaction and requires a way to spread.  If the link is broken in the chain, the virus stops spreading and dies.    If Americans will make this sacrifice for the short term, it will slow down and eventually stop the spread of the virus. 
     Second, people should cooperate to stop the spread of the virus.  A little inconvenience now could make a huge difference.   In 1527, a deadly plague hit Martin Luther’s hometown.  Luther, who believed God was in control of all things, said: “Use medicine, take potions which can help you’ fumigate house, yard, and street; shun person and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city.”  
      Third, it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.  Whether death comes from COVID-19, a heart attack, old age, an auto accident, or in your sleep, death is inevitable for all men.  It’s unavoidable.  During this time of ‘social distancing,’ may we be introspective and understand life is fragile and death hangs over us like a fog all the time.  What are we doing with our life?  What is the chief purpose of man?  Why was man created?  Those are heavy questions in a heavy environment, but COVID-19 has made sports, eating out and socializing trivial- because it is.
.    What can we do to ‘help put out the burning?’  (1) Recognize the experts know more than you do and comply with requests to practice social distancing.  (2) Stop panic buying!  It hurts your fellow citizens.  Buy what you need and the supply chain can keep up with demand. (2) Pray!  Only God can stop the spread of disease.  Luther also said that no matter what he did if God wanted to take him, the plague would find him.  Pray, but don’t live in fear because God is sovereign and COVID-19 didn’t take Him by surprise.  Stay safe!

Sunday, March 15, 2020


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     The initiative petition is under attack in Oklahoma. House Joint Resolution #1027 (HJR#1027) passed the House on Tuesday evening at 6:05 pm.  The vote was 66-30 with four members not voting.  All but five of the yea votes were Republican.  All Democrats voted nay.  One of the five Republicans voting no was Rep. Jon Echols, (R-OKC), the House Majority Leader, who voted to send the JR to the House floor, but then voted against it when it came to the floor.  HJR#1027 now goes to the Senate.
       HJR#1027 would dramatically change the initiative petition process in Oklahoma.  It would require the signatures to be gathered equally in each of the five congressional districts.  Proponents of HJR#1027 say that rural Oklahoma is being ignored when initiative petitions are run.  They claim those running the petitions concentrate on OKC, Tulsa and Lawton areas and ignore rural Oklahoma and ‘disenfranchise’(whatever that means) rural voters.  Critics of HJR#1027 say the current initiative petition process is fair and allows citizens to bypass the legislature and take issues direct to the people.  
     First, HJR#1027 would make success at running an initiative petition nearly impossible. In statistics, ‘combinations’ are when a number of factors, without regard to the order, are used to calculate probability. HJR#1027 proposes a combination factor to the initiative petition process.  By placing the congressional district requirement on petitioners, the probability of success is increased by 18.2 times!  That’s right.  Instead of making it just a little more difficult, getting a state question on the ballot becomes nearly impossible.  Both liberal, conservative, moderate citizens are impacted when government votes to restrict or regulate involvement.
     Second, many legislators despise the initiative petition process.  It is highly unlikely one of the 149 lawmakers have carried a clipboard seeking signatures to get an issue on the ballot.  They believe anyone who does is radical and must be stopped.  But radicals should have the right to take their case to the people.  SQ#640, which requires any tax or fee increase pass with a ¾ majority, is despised by legislators, but without it Oklahomans would be paying much more in taxes.  SQ#640 was on the ballot because hard working ‘radical’ Oklahomans were sick of being taxed to death and took action.          
     Third, the legislature should govern the state, not make it harder for citizens to get involved in their government.  “If the requirements of HJR#1027 would have been in place, we wouldn’t have had legalized pot on the ballot,” an unnamed legislator said.  They were likely right and not only pot, but everything else wouldn’t get on the ballot.  If HJR#1027 becomes law,  the only state questions on the ballot will be those generated by the legislature itself.
     HJR#1027 now moves to the state Senate.  Citizens who care about their rights and the right to petition your fellow citizens to get an issue on the ballot should contact their state senator and ask them to oppose HJR#1027.   

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Educate voters, don't restrict them to participate in their government!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     Oklahoma is one of 24 states that have an initiative petition process.  It allows citizens to bypass the legislature by collecting signatures from registered voters and get issues on the ballot.  The number of signatures required is tied to the total number of votes cast in the gubernatorial elections.  Currently 177,958 signatures are required to get a state question on the ballot that would amend the state constitution, 94,911 for one that would place a new statute on the books.  The signatures must be collected in a 90 day period.  Another way a state question gets on the ballot is if the state legislature (both chambers) passes a ‘joint resolution.’
     Rep. John Pfeiffer, (R-Orlando), House Deputy Floor Leader, and Sen. Kim David, (R-Porter), Senate Majority Floor Leader have introduced House Joint Resolution #1027.   HJR 1027, if passed by the House and Senate, sends to a vote of the people a proposed amendment to the state constitution that, if approved, will change the percentage of legal voters required to propose an initiative or referendum petition from statewide to every congressional district of the state.  HJR #1027 would require 8% of all registered voters in the 5 congressional districts to sign an initiative petition. HJR#1027 passed the Rules committee 6-1 on February 22nd with one Democrat voting no. Three thoughts:
     First, HJR # 1027 appears to be favored by legislative leadership.  Sen. David is the second ranking Republican in the Senate and Rep. Pfeiffer in House leadership.  The idea to mess with the initiative petition process comes after several successful signature drives by groups pushing liberal ideas.    Increasing the number of signatures seems to be legislative leadership’s solution.   Details on the specifics in #1027 are sketchy, but changing the process to require voters in every congressional district sign the initiative petitions is to make it more difficult to get the necessary signatures.  Under the current system, the signatures can be gained by hitting the OKC and Tulsa metro areas and ignoring rural areas.  “I worry more about my voters in rural Oklahoma being disenfranchised and not even intentionally. It’s just the path of least resistance. If you have to collect a certain number of signatures, you’re going to do it in the metro areas. You’re not even going to ask people in rural Oklahoma because you don’t have to,” Pfeiffer says.
     Second, making it more difficult for citizens to get an issue on the ballot hurts every political group or ideology- liberals and conservatives alike.  SQ #640 would not be part of the state constitution if these requirements for signatures would have been in place.  640 was passed in March 1992 and while detested by many legislators. it has literally saved Oklahoma taxpayers billions of dollars by requiring a 75% majority in the legislature to pass increases in taxes and fees.   
     Third, legislators should leave well enough alone.  The key to good government is educating citizens/voters, not restricting them.  While the current system may result in liberal issues getting on the ballot, the answer is educating voters on the issue. Regulating and restricting liberty for one group restricts every Oklahoman.  Contact your legislator and tell them to vote no on HJR #1027.