Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence wrote, "I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them…we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican form of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible; for this Divine Book, above all others, constitutes the soul of republicanism.” “By withholding the knowledge of [the Scriptures] from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds.”
As a member of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, I see firsthand the results of a society which no longer places emphasis on the values of the Christian faith. During each meeting of the committee, it seems we are forced to vote on finding solutions to new criminal activity. The Department of Corrections faces a nightmare scenario of prison overcrowding. They must deal with more and more attempts to initiate early release of criminals, placing them back into the society which they have victimized. As the government grows due to the increasing number of laws required to police a lawless society, the financial burden placed on law-abiding citizens increases also. And sadly, a big government in a society lacking in morality will in and of itself consist of an increased number of government officials without standards. In short, it is this lack of morality that makes our republican form of government more difficult to maintain.
This is why I was honored to support a recent proposal by fellow freshman Republican Dennis Johnson. Johnson authored HB 1874 to designate "Celebrate Freedom Week" for Oklahoma schools during the same week in November in which we honor veterans. "Celebrate Freedom Week" would be used to instruct students about the importance of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and other founding documents and historical American figures.
Johnson expressed the belief that some things should absolutely be taught in school, and the core principles of our nation’s freedom must be emphasized so they can be passed on to future generations.
In speaking for the bill, Representative Paul Wesselhoft said, "My daughter attends Yale University and she’s been surprised at the lack of awareness about our nation’s history among her fellow students – even simple things like the opening preamble to the Declaration of Independence. If elementary school, middle school and high school aren’t the place where students learn about these things, when and where is the appropriate place? I’m surprised and disappointed that anyone would oppose this measure."
So who would oppose such a measure? One aspect of Johnson's bill that may have drawn the ire of opponents was language which requires that religious references in the writing of the founding fathers not be censored. Perhaps some prefer that public schools students not be exposed to quotes similar to those of Noah Webster and Benjamin Rush. But can you imagine the positive impact on Oklahoma students if they understood that Christian principles make the republican form of government and our rights and privileges as a free people easier to maintain?
Fortunately Johnson's bill passed the house by a strong margin, though several legislators debated against it and 18 voted in opposition. I was honored to support Johnson's effort to refocus the attention of our public school system on the values that made our country great, and look forward to opportunities to do so in the future.