Communications & Public Affairs
Feb. 28, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: State Rep. Jason Dunnington
Phone: (405) 557-7396

Reps. Dunnington, Munson and Young Respond To Updated House Chaplain Program

OKLAHOMA CITY – Following a second change to the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Chaplain Program effectively eliminating daily chaplains, state Reps. Jason Dunnington, Cyndi Munson and George Young, Sr. are calling on the program coordinator to reverse course or remove himself from the position.

In January, the program coordinator issued new guidelines requiring clergy participating in the House Chaplain Program “be from the representative’s own place of worship.” After significant feedback from the interfaith community, the coordinator altered the program once again. Now, clergy members who have already been selected for the 2018 legislative session are eligible to serve. For dates that have not yet been reserved, the House will utilize one individual chosen by House leadership.

“The decision to allow one representative to select a single chaplain for the remainder of the 56th legislative session is a mistake that severely undermines Oklahoma’s core values,” said Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City. “Instead of listening to constructive criticism and reversing course on the program changes, the coordinator doubled down.

“Part of the beauty of the program is to encourage civic engagement. In the past, House members could select any member of the clergy they chose to serve as Chaplain of the Day. Members of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith communities have previously served in the program. These newest changes deprive the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of faith that exists in Oklahoma, and to engage various religious beliefs in a thoughtful way,” Dunnington continued.

“I have grave concerns with the direction this program is headed,” said Young, D-Oklahoma City, who serves as a pastor in his House district. “Essentially what we have is one member using his position to enact discriminatory policy. The decision not only revokes a representative’s choice to select a diverse faith leader, it also hurts the people of Oklahoma who come from all different religions. The program, as it stands now, is unchristian, insulting to the state’s interfaith community and should not be allowed to stand.”

“As a woman of faith, and specifically a follower of Jesus, I am disheartened and disappointed by my colleague’s continuous attempt to exclude people of various faith backgrounds to come before the Legislature,” said Munson, D-Oklahoma City. “Regardless of differing beliefs, our goal should always be to strive for inclusiveness, peace, and love. We should not live in fear of each other. Oklahomans come from many faith backgrounds, and no faith backgrounds at all, so it is imperative that we allow that representation at the State Capitol. This place is the People’s House, therefore all are welcome at all times.”

-30-