Written by Dick Pryor on Thursday April 16, 2009
In this day of what Jim Lehrer of PBS calls “shouters and clowns” holding forth on some broadcast talk programs, Thursday’s taping of Oklahoma Forum served as a reminder of the value of well-reasoned, meaningful discussion where people can “disagree without being disagreeable.”
The big topic for the program (airing on April 26th at 1:00 p.m.) was the First Amendment and the Ten Commandments. Specifically, we discussed the role of the Ten Commandments in the development of American law, and the legal and ethical issues related to the posting of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol.
The guests were Andrew Spiropoulos, professor of Constitutional Law at the Oklahoma City University School of Law; Joseph Thai, professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law; and Dr. John Starkey, Millhouse Professor of Theology at the Oklahoma City University Wimberly School of Religion and Graduate Theological Center.
Instead of focusing on HB 1330, the bill that would allow a privately-funded Ten Commandments monument to be erected on the state capitol grounds, we talked about the importance of the Ten Commandments in our system of laws, government endorsement of religion, and the major Supreme Court cases relating to public displays of secular and sectarian text and images. Toward the end of the program, we briefly touched on the latest U.S. Supreme Court case addressing the matter of “government speech.”
We’ve found that often the best programs don’t end when the red camera lights go off, and such was the case for this program. As soon as it ended, Joseph Thai posed a question to his Con Law colleague Andrew Spiropoulos, and the ensuing discussion from each of them was fascinating. It was the kind of thing that you just sit back and enjoy.
The discussion continued for more than 20 minutes and carried over out into the hall. We all agreed that we were just getting started on this weighty topic and needed to get back together for Round 2. Clearly, these three learned men are passionate about their work and the importance of religion and our Constitution. And, as often happens on Oklahoma Forum, they walked away realizing that despite some stark differences there is actually much common ground.
Sorry you couldn’t hear the post-program talk, but the show itself is a good one - useful information for citizens and policy-makers alike. Be sure to watch at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 26.
Until next time,
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