Commentary: Oklahoma Baptists Oppose Ending Abortion

The news on this stunning development in the Sooner State has already been reported by Pulpit & Pen in a post by Seth Dunn on Sunday. Oklahoma is ground zero for a growing philosophical movement of abolition, the belief that abortion should be outlawed once and for all in one fell swoop rather than incrementally. Amidst that paradigm shift of thought regarding the best way to end abortion, Oklahoma State Senator, Joseph Silk, proposed Senate Bill 13 which would criminalize abortion by classifying it as homicide. The bill would simply state that unborn children are human beings and that all existing homicide laws apply to them as fellow human beings.

Opponents of the bill included the Democratic Party and…the General Baptist Convention of Oklahoma.

Now, let me add some caveats for the sake of fairness. The General Baptist Convention of Oklahoma – the Southern Baptist state entity – published a letter against the proposed legislation, saying, they “cannot in good conscience get behind [the legislation] as it is proposed.” I am not arguing that the General Baptist Convention of Oklahoma opposes the gradual and incremental regulation of abortion to make it less frequent. I’m simply stating the established fact that they opposed (through the open letter in their newspaper) the immediate abolition of all abortion.

The letter was signed by convention president Blake Gideon, treasurer Hance Dilbeck, and the editor of the Baptist Messenger newspaper, Brian Hobbs. They listed concerns that the legislation will do more harm than good.

These concerns were essentially two-fold (I’m simplifying, and you can read the Baptist Messenger open letter for yourself here). First, the Baptists held that the legislation would immediately be overturned by the courts because it will be superseded by a supposed interpretation of the U.S. Constitution held by the Supreme Court. Second, the Baptists’ claimed that the legislation would overturn previously fought-for and hard-won pro-life legislation.

Let me provide a few comments on these points.

Firstly, it is the judiciary’s responsibility (in theory) to determine the constitutionality of legislation. Although judicial review has been enshrined in precedent since Marbury vs Madison, precedent is not law and the constitutionality of judicial review has not historically gone unopposed.

Regardless of your feelings with regard to judicial review, it is the job of the legislature to pass laws they feel to be in the best interest of the Republic, their sovereign state, or their district. It is not the legislature’s job to do judicial review, and likewise, it is not the judiciary’s job to legislate.

Although our system of government was designed with checks and balances, this does not mean that every branch of government was designed to have equal power. In fact, the concept of co-equal branches of government is nowhere explicitly or implicitly in the Constitution. The legislature – as it was the closest to the will of the people and could be most easily (and most frequently) recalled from power – was to have the mightiest hand of government. Although this pertains to the U.S. Constitution, this model has been imitated by all 50 states, including Oklahoma.

However, today legislators have surrendered their power to the executive branch through giving the power of unrivaled fiat, and to the judiciary through activist judges who legislate from the bench.

Proving that a degree in theology doesn’t necessarily make someone savvy in political theory or government affairs, the Baptists of Oklahoma are seeking to weaken the legislative branch of government (by far its best chance at ending abortion) by dictating they only propose or pass legislation they’re guessing the courts will approve!

This is dumb (and cowardly) for several reasons. Primarily, it is important to set a legislative precedent. If the courts will reject a law on grounds of constitutionality, let them reject it a thousand times. The will of the people will be heard over and over again and the populace will grow and more and more righteously angry at the judiciary dictatorship. If anything our Supreme Court has taught us it’s that justices who are supposed to be above persuasion by the people are still subject to popular opinion and public outrage. Surely Obergfell vs Hodges teaches us that lesson.

Next, voting on such legislation (and much more, passing it) builds a general consensus as to what truly is the will of the People. And the will of the People in a government by the People and for the People is powerful. If Democrats oppose the legislation, let it become a political noose and public relations albatross. If there are RINO Republicans trying to win a tiny fraction of the voters in their district who may cross over in a primary, then let this smoke them out so that next time, we can vote them out.

Finally (on this point), the question for Christians must ultimately not be what the political ramification might be, but what is morally right. And it is morally right to criminalize abortion regardless of whether or not a governor will sign the legislation or a judge let it pass through the courts unimpeded.

Secondly, and this is the part that’s truly insane, the Baptists arguing that criminalizing all abortion would overturn other pro-life laws, is probably the absolutely dumbest thing I have ever read.

It’s not rocket science. If unborn babies are human beings, and therefore homicide laws apply to them, then there is no need for other “pro-life” laws. I want the men who wrote this letter to have to put on a dunce cap, be made to sit in the corner, and publicly scolded. Literally, I want to find a menacing -looking child and pay him to wag his finger at them in derision for at least an hour.

You don’t need incrementalist legislation that effectively legalizes and regulates abortion if abortion is criminalized. In fact, every piece of “pro-life” legislation that regulates abortion, no matter how much it restricts it, is inherently immoral.

Dan Calkins, a Southern Baptist minister in Okahoma at Highland Park Baptist Church, spoke to Pulpit & Pen about his state convention opposing the abolition legislation and gave more insight regarding the political climate in the state.

Calkins explained, “Last year, Dan Fisher ran for governor on a platform of ‘Asserting State Sovereignty to Abolish Human Abortion.’ Many in the media saw him as a joke of a candidate, but more than 36,000 people voted for him in a closed Republican primary. This enlivened a base who saw the need that banning certain types of abortion or regulating abortion is not acceptable.”

Fisher’s gubernatorial bid – even though unsuccessful – started a movement.

Calkins continued, “Furthermore, during Sanctity of Life Sunday, a growing number of pastors in Oklahoma preached on the need of abolishing abortion instead of pushing typical pro-life legislation. This Senate bill came out of this exciting movement.”

According to Calkins, the opposition toward the abolition bill by the Baptists of Oklahoma indicate a deeper philosophical difference in regard to ending infanticide.

“The opposition of the BGCO is helpful in regards to waking us up that they are still tied to the game of regulation and limitation at the expense of ending abortion,” Calkins added.

“I understand why they want to protect these laws since they spent a lot of money and man-hours fighting for this legislation; but when total abolition becomes the law, laws that regulate or partially ban [abortion] become irrelevant and need to be discarded.”

Ultimately, what has happened is that God has sparked a movement which includes those behind the pulpits are well as those in the pews. The People are out there saying, “We can end this. We have the power. We can exert the muscle. We can affirm our own state sovereignty (as states do on all kinds of different issues all the time). Let’s end abortion and end abortion now.” Unfortunately, however, the Baptist leadership is afraid to just step forward and get it done.

History will judge us for our lack of courage. In an effort to avoid the embarrassment of having our legislation rejected by the courts, we will end up causing future generations to reject our witness, who will no doubt look back at horror toward our apathy and indifference.


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