Editor’s Notebook: religious freedom rally on Saturday, Lankford blasts Holder, city to host ALEC in 2013

From an editor’s notebook, Sooner State Catholics organize an inter-denominational rally in Oklahoma City, Rep. James Lankford says U.S. Attorney General Holder has only himself to blame for this week’s congressional contempt finding, and Governor Mary Fallin announces Oklahoma will host next year’s agenda task force meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

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With help from the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, a new Oklahoma not-for-profit called St. Peter’s Fellowship has organized “A Rally for Religious Freedom” set for this Saturday (June 23) at 1 p.m. in Oklahoma City. 

Speakers will include Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a Republican, and state Rep. Rebecca Hamilton of Oklahoma City, a Democrat.

Other speakers will include Pastor Frank Cargill, constitutional scholar William Federer, University of Oklahoma Law Professor Michael Scaperlanda, Professor Teresa Collett, Steve Ray, Pastor James Taylor, Pastor Ronnie W. Rogers, U.S. Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma City and the creators/producers of a new video, “Test of Fire.” The film has “gone viral” in a Catholic-oriented edition, and is being re-released in an Evangelical edition.

Anticipated at the event is an address by Catholic Archbishop Paul S. Coakley. In response to a call from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Coakley encouraged organization of the local rally.

The Obama administration’s push to require coverage of abortion services and contraception in privately-funded health insurance programs offered by religious organizations provoked an immediate response earlier this year, and several other faith communities have joined the Catholic Church in opposition.

Oklahoma’s Southern Baptists immediately joined state Catholic leaders in opposing the mandate for health insurance to include coverage of abortafacients, artificial contraception and sterilization. Presidents of some of the state’s Christian-affiliated universities agreed with the Catholic response. 

The rally on Saturday falls in the midst of a “Fortnight for Freedom,” 14 days of “prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom,” organizers told CapitolBeatOK. The Catholic observance of the fortnight (two weeks) began Thursday (June 21) with observances in Baltimore and elsewhere, and continues with a Mass at Oklahoma City’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Friday (June 22).  

The fellowship and other activists have encouraged broad support for the Saturday rally. It begins at 1 p.m. in the Cox Convention Center Arena (1 Myriad Gardens), and will last until 4 p.m. or so. Doors will open at 1 p.m. While admission is free, a $10 donation is suggested. 
The rally will include music by Mountain Smoke. 

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Rep. Lankford, who presently holds the Fifth District congressional seat that includes most of Oklahoma County and adjacent areas east of Oklahoma City, issued a strong statement of support for a vote on Wednesday (June 21) finding U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

The 23-17 vote of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform came after months of rising tension between the House and the Justice Department over the “gun walking” that arose from the “Fast and Furious” undercover operations supervised by the agency.

The issue has for several weeks had particular saliency in the Second Congressional District’s Republican primary

In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Lankford said, “The Committee has patiently asked for specific documents regarding the Fast and Furious operation. Unfortunately, the DOJ and AG Holder have used every excuse in the book to stall, delay, and obstruct our investigation.  A.G. Holder also informed our Committee that the statements given to Congress were not false, they were ‘evolving truth.”
Lankford continued, “Refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena comes with consequences including the loss of public trust and being held in contempt. The American people and the Terry family deserve honest answers regarding the Fast and Furious operation, and I am frustrated with DOJ’s disingenuous attempts to circumvent that responsibility.
“My goal is to answer the following questions: who authorized the Fast and Furious actions; why were the actions authorized; who was in charge of operational oversight; and why were the actions allowed to continue?  Now, we must also add the question, what is the Administration trying to hide with such extraordinary methods?
“The Administration has previously denied involvement in the Fast and Furious operation, but now they have invoked Executive Privilege. If no wrongdoing occurred, why would the Administration ardently fight investigation? Executive Privilege only increases the speculation that facts are being withheld to protect people rather than resolve the issue. Candidate Obama’s pledge of transparency and openness has deteriorated into Executive Privilege and obfuscating a congressional subpoena.
“We must make sure this type of operation and loose oversight never occurs again. We will hold this Administration accountable for its misconduct.”

On Thursday (June 21), new discussions were apparently under way to resolve the split between the Obama administration and Congress over presidential prerogatives vs. congressional oversight. If the impasse remains unresolved, the full House could vote on the contempt finding within days.

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Governor Fallin this week cheered news that Oklahoma City will host the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Spring Task Force Summit.  The event is slated for May 2-3, 2013 at the Renaissance Hotel and Cox Convention Center. 
ALEC is described as a group working “to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.”
Hundreds of legislators and business leaders from across the nation are expected for the task force summit, and will focus on state and national policy issues.

In 1993, Fallin was designed ALEC’s legislator of the year. This year, she wrote the  forward to Rich States, Poor States (read it here), ALEC’s policy handbook. 
Fallin said the summit “is one more opportunity to demonstrate the tremendous progress we have made as a state. Our economy is booming, with low unemployment and one of the highest rates of job creation in the country. Many of those successes come from pursuing the kind of pro-business, pro-growth policies advocated by ALEC, including low taxes, reasonable regulations and an environment that favors private sector growth over government expansion. We’re proud to host a great organization and to share ideas for conservative governance that will continue to grow Oklahoma’s economy and pave the way for job creation in the private sector.”
ALEC’s private sector co-chairs include Kristen Peck, vice president of Government and Public Affairs at Cox Communications, and Jim Dunlap, of Dunlap Consultants. When he was a member of the state Senate, Dunlap was ALEC’s national public sector chairman. 
Public Sector Co-Chairs are state Senator Cliff Aldridge and Representative Gary Banz, both Midwest City Republicans. Banz said the event “will allow our House and Senate members to fully participate in the process of developing model legislation.” 
ALEC has been fighting attacks from Common Cause, including the latter group’s complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service in April. While Common Cause wants an IRS audit of ALEC as a prelude to penalties and back taxes, veteran tax-exempt organization attorney Alan Dye said the dispute centers around “liberal front groups that differ with ALEC on philosophical terms.”