OK-AU Spring Dialogue examines mixing religion and civil government

The Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to hold its annual Spring Dialogue. Logo provided.

OKLAHOMA CITY - On Tuesday, May 7, the Oklahoma City chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State will host its 5th annual Spring Dialogue. The theme is “Advantages and Disadvantages of Religious Involvement with Civil Government.”

The free event will begin at 7 pm at the Raindrop Turkish House, 4444 N. Classen Blvd., in Oklahoma City, and will conclude at 9 pm.

"Our AU chapter looks forward to presenting speakers who can provide an interesting inside look at important issues concerning the First Amendment support of separation of religious views from civil laws,” said OK-AU Communications Chair, James Nimmo. 

"The United States supports hundreds, if not thousands, of religious denominations. Not a single one of them can be allowed to gain political strength over any other denomination."

The event will be a four person moderated panel discussion that will explore the advantages and disadvantages of mixing religion and civil government.

Panelists include the Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Executive Director Oklahoma Conference of Churches; Dr. Bilal Erturk, Assistant Professor, Department of Finance at Oklahoma State University; Clayton Flesher, co-founder of Odd Oklahoma; and James Nimmo, OK-AU Communications Chair.

Chas Stewart, OK-AU chapter secretary will be the event moderator.

Dr. Tabbernee will speak on capital punishment. The death penalty is carried out by the state but opposed by many religious groups, including the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. 

"The death penalty is literally 'a matter of life and death,'" Tabbernee said. "Like all such matters, people have strongly held opinions on the subject. Opinions influenced by their religious beliefs and values." 

Tabbernee has extensive experience in ecumenical and interfaith relations, including more than 20 years as a member of the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order. 

A volunteer for the Raindrop Turkish House, Dr. Ertuck was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and is a finance faculty member at the OSU’s Spears School of Business. 

“The topic of my talk will be ‘Secularism: Lessons learned from the Turkish experience,” said Ertuck. “My talk will be generally center around experiences of the idea of separation of church/mosque and state in Turkey.”

Flesher, a contributing writer for OKC.net and the website Odd Oklahoma, is the Education Chair for the Oklahoma Atheists group. He will look at both the pragmatic and principled reasons for supporting a strong separation.

"I'll talk about what role separation has had in keeping religion robust in the US while keeping religious violence relatively low,” said Flesher.

James Nimmo will focus on the harm and support religious belief brings to marriage equality in the United States.

“I am convinced that the best way to make progress politically is through non-partisan state and national organizations,” said Nimmo.

A question and answer period will follow the panel discussion. Turkish refreshments will be served. 

Hosting the event, the Raindrop Turkish House promotes education about the culture and history of Turkish life. The event is open to the public with free street parking available.

Interested citizens who support or want to know more about the importance of the First Amendment and the wall of separation between religious dogma and civil laws are encouraged to attend. 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., founded in 1947. The organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. 

For more information about the Oklahoma City Chapter of Americans for Separation of Church & State or the Spring Dialogue event, please visit www.okau.org or contact James Nimmo at 405-843-3651.