Okla. Gov. Shouldn’t Command Anyone To Pray For Oil Industry

Apparently Oklahoma’s oil industry has fallen on hard times, so Gov. Mary Fallin (R) is asking her constituents to call on divine intervention to save it.    

Fallin has declared Oct. 13 “Oilfield Prayer Day.” The proclamation says that Oklahomans “acknowledge such natural resources are created by God” and asks Fallin’s constituents to “thank God for the blessings created by the oil and natural gas industry….”

In response to this proclamation, Americans United Executive Director Barry Lynn wrote to Fallin, asking her to rescind her decree.

“Encouraging the residents of your state to pray on a specific day violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – a document you have sworn to uphold,” Lynn wrote. “Your action sends the message that non-believers have no place in Oklahoma; in essence, you have established belief in God as the government-endorsed viewpoint in your state.” 

Is this worthy of prayer? Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin thinks so.

Lynn, who is a Christian minister, noted that it is not the job of any government official to tell anyone whether or when to pray. Instead, Lynn said, that is the job of clergy.

“Furthermore, I would like to remind you that it is not the job of government officials to encourage the people they represent to take part in religious activities,” he said. “That job belongs to religious leaders and the religious community. We are more capable of doing it without government “help” or interference.

The Rev. Bruce Prescott, a former Americans United board member and current Oklahoma resident, also expressed irritation with Fallin’s action because he believes declining oil revenues are hardly the state’s biggest concern.

“Another thing that’s an irritant on that one – there are a lot of things that could be prayed about in this state, and the oil field is not at the top of that list.”

Fallin’s original proclamation was especially problematic because she only asked Christians to pray for Oklahoma’s oil industry. But thanks to some public pressure, she said the proclamation would be revised to make it more inclusive.

“There was some question about whether it was one particular faith or another, so we just amended it to say all faiths,” Fallin said. “There are many people suffering right now who have lost their jobs in the energy sector ... there are a lot of families who have been hurt, and I think prayer is always a good thing, for anyone.”

Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem here. “Including” members of all faiths in the proclamation still excludes those of no faith – a concept Fallin clearly fails to grasp. That means Fallin’s administration continues to endorse belief over non-belief here.  

With “Oilfield Prayer Day” two days away, there is still time for Fallin to rescind her proclamation. Let’s hope she does so immediately.