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Supreme Court Frees States From Oppressive Blaine Amendments; School Choice Is Within Reach For Legislature

Last week SCOTUS told Montana, and by extension, the other 49 states that they can't exclude religious schools from generally applicable school choice programs simply because they are religious. This should have been the self-evident conclusion of anyone who read the First Amendment through the lens of history. The idea that the founders would have allowed states to discriminate against religious schools is foolish.
At the time of the founding, many states had established religions. It was only the federal government that was prevented from establishing a religion. It was also barred from interfering with states’ establishments. The relevant phrase is “Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (emphasis added) The constitution has since been amended, and most of the rights codified in the Bill of Rights have been applied to or “incorporated against” the states - that is why state police can no longer search a hom…

The Truth About COVID-19: Better Than You Think

As the media turns its attention back to COVID-19, there is a renewed push to shut down the economy. Some states have even begun to scale back reopening plans for their economies; others continue to delay opening. It is essential to look past their catastrophizing and focus on the facts of COVID-19.One fact to consider: while testing has risen 23%, the rate of positive results has only risen 1.3 percentage points to 6.2%. Even as alarmists point to the rise in cases, they still admit that the boost in testing has played a role in the rise in the total number of known cases. Therefore, the total number of positive cases is not of much use in this case, as it only paints a partial picture. The rate of increase in total positive cases is a more meaningful measure, and it has barely increased. Even more important is who is getting infected. The data show that recent cases are primarily younger people. But that’s a good thing; these are precisely the people that are key to building herd im…

Filling the Truth Vacuum Regarding COVID-19

With COVID-19 heating up again, and the resumption of societal shutdowns in other states, a pandemic strategy never seen in modern times, it seems appropriate to post facts with appropriate recommendations for action independent of politicized governmental institutions. Providing this information, along with relevant context, is the purpose of the new “COVID-19” webpage on the 1889 Institute’s website.
With the recent widely-reported surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the impression created is that the pandemic has spiraled out of control. Therefore, our first factual installment is the following figure, which shows the number of daily new cases and the number of daily new deaths from COVID-19 in Oklahoma. Seven-day moving averages are also illustrated in order to show trends.
Source: The Covid Tracking Project (, which assembles data daily from the Oklahoma Department of Health (OKDOH). OKDOH does not provide longitudinal data.

Whether in the Streets or on a Court, Chaos Results when Words Lose Their Meaning

“There’s a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure, ‘cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.”- Robert Plant
Words have meaning. This allows us to communicate with each other. Suppose you and I are having dinner. If I ask you to pass me the salt, meaning the seasoning commonly applied to food, and you have decided to redefine the word “salt” as an explosive device activated by pulling a pin and releasing a handle (or what I would call a hand grenade), it's not difficult to see why you would be very worried, and why I (having asked for a common seasoning) would be surprised by your concern. If words mean whatever the speaker decides in the moment, then we lose even the most basic ability to communicate with each other.
In light of the continued debate over whether "defund" means “end all funding for” or “reduce funding for,” and especially in light of last week’s Supreme Court ruling, I am reminded of Genesis 11's account of the Tower of Babel. The short ver…

Think Carefully before Voting on SQ 802

So we vote next week on whether or not to expand Medicaid according to Obamacare’s provisions. A vote “Yes” on State Question 802 would expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults above the poverty line. A vote “No” would keep the status quo, with taxpayers buying health care under Medicaid mainly for poor children and pregnant mothers.
But as with just about anything proposed by initiative, State Question 802 is not really that simple. For one thing, it forever entrenches a federal program, which can be changed by Congress at any time, in our state’s constitution, which is not so easily amended. Obviously, the proponents of SQ 802 want to set the terms of the Medicaid expansion permanently, sidestepping our constitutionally instituted legislature, which is supposed to react and adjust to existing circumstances. SQ 802 would take that flexibility away.
A consequence of that reduced flexibility will likely be sacrifices in other state-financed programs such as public education, both in the nea…

New Oklahoma Bar Association Rules Are a Step in the Right Direction for Free Speech

The Oklahoma Bar Association has gone half way towards respecting its members’ First Amendment rights. It should go the rest of the way.
Lawyers in Oklahoma are forced to join and pay dues to the OBA in order to keep their license to practice law. The OBA uses that dues money for many things, including political activity like advocating for or against public policy proposals. The result is that lawyers are forced to fund political speech they may disagree with as a condition of continuing to earn a living as a lawyer. This is called a mandatory bar association, and many of us contend that it fundamentally infringes lawyers’ First Amendment rights.
The United States Supreme Court agrees. About 30 years ago in a case called Keller v. State Bar of California, the Supreme Court held it unconstitutional for a bar association to use compelled dues from lawyers to engage in political speech without providing meaningful procedures for lawyers to “opt out” of funding the speech. Exactly what typ…

Lawmakers Foul Out on Occupational Licensing—Again

Oklahoma’s got a bad occupational licensing problem, worse than other states. We don’t just regulate too many occupations (almost as many as Kansas and Missouri combined), we also overregulate; our licensing laws are the 11th most burdensome nationwide. What concerns me most isn’t either of those points, though. It’s that many of our harshest, most suffocating regulations target occupations that no thinking lawmaker should be legislating about in the first place.To illustrate this prevalent and truly bizarre phenomenon, take 1889’s latest report, which examines the Therapeutic Recreation Act. The report finds that the Act, which mandates getting government permission to sell or advertise recreational therapy services, is flagrantly unjustified. The practice targeted by the law simply isn’t dangerous or technical enough to warrant a license, not even close.If any reader is clueless, such as a lawmaker, rec therapy is an allied healthcare profession whose specialists promote the health …

America’s Public Schools Fail Black Children, School Choice Empowers Them to Overcome

A consistent feature of racists through history is that they have fully understood the power of education, or the lack of education, as a tool of oppression. Extraordinary efforts were taken to keep black slaves illiterate, including killing those who deigned to learn to read. After the Civil War, black schools were frequent targets of attack. It should be no surprise that the longest and hardest fight in the Jim Crow South was over public school segregation. Segregationists worked to keep African Americans from lunch counters and in the back of city buses, but they fought like hell to keep black kids out of white schools.
As our nation convulses with discussions of systemic racism, nearly all of the focus has been on questions of policing and the use of force. This is appropriate, of course. But I’d like to highlight a less discussed institution for which a strong case can be made that systemic racism prevails: public education.
An accepted definition of “systemic” or “structural” raci…