OKLAHOMA CITY – Hard-right reactionary Rep. Chuck Strohm, a Jenks-based Republican, demonstrated this month that he is just another House member who is quite comfortable excluding non-Christian faith leaders from offering a simple prayer in front of the legislature during the current session.
Thinking about Strohm, and his anti-Muslim pals like the reprehensible Rep. John Bennett of Sallisaw, and those of their ilk, one can’t help but see that they are essentially the antithesis of a true follower of Jesus Christ.
Just go to Strohm’s website if you don’t believe me.
From the get-go, it’s clear that Strohm worships guns. He goes on about how much he is loved by the NRA and how much of a “Christian Conservative” he is. And yet the Christ of the Bible was well-known for speaking to and listening to people of all walks of life and faith backgrounds. Jesus was quick to forgive. He was a peacemaker. And yet the only “peacemaker” Strohm seems to acknowledge is in the form of a Colt Single Action Army revolver, it would seem.
(SIDE NOTE: Oh, and he hates marijuana, by the way. Strohm, an engineer by trade, states that he “understands the dangers of drug use and the Bible’s clear warnings against it” and that is why this son of a doctor, with two children entering the medical field (hmmm), embraces the whole Nixonian “gateway drug” fallacy and that it is up to the “pharmaceutical companies” to “harness the benefits of this plant.” Cue up Reefer Madness while you’re at it, Chucky!)
Like the Pharisees of Jesus’s day, Strohm (here is his voting record) and his Trumpian cultists “make a big show “of proving to everyone how pious and holy they are, when they seem to be really full of greed and self-indulgence, as Jesus said of the Pharisees of his day in Matthew 23.
These so-called Christian Republicans in the mold of Strohm, Bennett and the rest, really have very hard hearts with no evident interest in justice, mercy and being kind to one’s neighbor. Again, just look at their voting records. They speak volumes about how they really feel about their fellow human beings, particularly those of different backgrounds and belief systems.
Red Dirt Report reported last year about Strohm filing House Bill 1507, that clearly targeted same-sex couples by allowing “child-placing agencies (the choice to) deny placement based on if that placement violates the written religious or moral convictions or polices of the agency.” This was clearly an attempt to discriminate against the LGBT community, and same-sex parents who would offer a loving home to a child in need. And, true to his cowardly nature, Strohm once again refused to offer comment on his bill.
Meanwhile, the unmitigated hate also spills over into our immigrant communities.
Just look at the Strohm-led Republican Platform Caucus. These are the hard-right purists of the party. No quarter will be given to those who disagree.
It was last year that the caucus made headlines when they floated the idea last year of rounding up “82,000 non-English speaking students in Oklahoma” and hand them over to immigration authorities to “see if they truly are citizens.” (Read more about the “disgustingly inhumane” ideas of that caucus here).
And you know Jesus would have been leading that racist lynch mob, right?
Strohm and his fellow xenophobes in the Republican Platform Caucus – including Bennett, Sean Roberts, Mike Ritze and George Faught – have made some utterly vile statements in recent years, so, with that in mind, we (sadly) should not be all that surprised about Strohm’s views on religion and who gets to pray – and who does not.
And like a pompous minister, Strohm and his Elmer Gantry-esque compatriots seem to already know everything there is to know, so why listen to views that counter their own? Ask Imam Imad Enchassi of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City.
Last year, Enchassi was invited by State Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City) to be a guest chaplain during that legislative session. While Enchassi applied to the House Chaplain of the Day/Chaplain of the Week program in 2017, his application was rejected – without reason. Enchassi never knew why.
Strohm – the House chaplain coordinator – has refused to officially respond to inquiries about the matter. Again, cowardly Republicans don’t like being questioned – ever!
Meanwhile, Strohm would make it clear, this session, that a nominated faith leader must be “from the representative’s own place of worship.” Of course nearly all members of the House are Christian.
So Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons (presumably), and many others, including those with no official faith, are essentially excluded by Head House Pharisee Chuck Strohm. Don’t both asking why. Chucky knows best!
Red Dirt Report spoke with Adam Soltani, with the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) and discovered that this is just a continuation of the Islamophobia that has infected some members of the legislature over the past decade or more.
Soltani posed an important question: Will there now be a “religious test,” regarding the legislator and the individual the legislator chooses to be a chaplain?
And also, did all House members receive the Strohm memo? Soltani asked.
As Soltani said in media reports when this story broke: “This is yet another attempt by a legislator to marginilize and discrimate against the Muslim community.”
As reported by Oklahoma Watch, upon learning of Strohm’s dictate that excludes non-Christians from giving a prayer, Shannon Fleck, director of community engagement for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, reached out to Strohm, hoping to get a dialogue going.
Fleck wrote earlier this month: “By limiting legislators to pull from their individual faith traditions for legislative chaplains, the opportunity has been stripped from our elected officials to have any exposure to the vast and beautiful religious practices that make up this great state. Additionally, those who practice religions other than the majority in Oklahoma are being told their voice does not matter, their religion is less important, and they are being actively and succinctly shut out.”
But Strohm, so far, has ignored Fleck. Red Dirt Report also learned that Imam Enchassi has tried numerous times to get a meeting with Strohm, or a simple returned phone call. So far as we know, the rootin’-tootin’, gun-totin’ legislator from the Tulsa ‘burbs has a yellow streak up his back. He could prove us wrong and agree to an interview. But like most Republicans, they flee when asked to explain themselves and their kooky ideas – ideas that can affect real people, people they claim to be working for.
Ironically, shortly before this story broke, Strohm willingly gave a comment to KOCO News 5 regarding the University of Central Oklahoma student government’s cancellation of creationist and anti-gay extremist Ken Ham’s planned speaking engagement there in March.
Along with the perpetually-aggrieved State Rep. Kevin Calvey (R-Oklahoma City), Strohm also weighed in on the controversy, telling KOCO: “The overwhelmingly Christian and conservative people of Oklahoma should not be forced to pay more taxes to subsidize censorship and bigotry against Christians and conservatives at our state colleges.” (Bold emphasis ours).
Censorship and bigotry? Whoa! Big-boy words, Chucky!
With all of Strohm’s braying about the Second Amendment, you would think he would have more to say about freedom of speech (but the freedom of the press? Like Trump, we suspect Strohm fears a free press, since, well, they’re on to him).
Oh, and as a side note, Calvey said in the KOCO piece that “censorship is not an American value.” We agree. But censoring non-Christian voices in the House chaplain program is acceptable? Oh, the irony!!! (A follow-up story reveals that Ken Ham will now be able to spread his creationist and anti-gay propaganda on the UCO campus after all. We expect protests and demonstrations and support their freedom to assemble and do so!)
And yet Strohm only likes the First Amendment when it benefits himself and his fellow Christian supremacists at the Capitol. He made it clear in his statement to the local TV station that he is only looking out for “Christians” and “conservatives” while serving in the legislature.
As media reports have noted, non-Christian faith leaders call Strohm’s dictate an “insult to the entire interfaith community.” We agree – and then some. It’s an insult to all Oklahomans who care about the free-flow of ideas, diversity and open dialogue. Of course demagogues don’t care much about open dialogue …
We nearly forgot to mention that Strohm also noted in his memo to the House that the chaplain program is “not a platform for personal agendas.” And yet it would seem that Strohm himself is excluded from following his own decree! Clearly, this obnoxious, exclusionary memo is part of Strohm’s own “personal agenda,” (one where he and his pals can further spread an extremist, Christian-supremacist worldview … in the people’s house!)
Chuck Strohm is all about his “personal agenda.” And in all likelihood, an agenda that does not include you, citizen (if you are a woman, forget your “right to choose,” Strohm and his gun-slingin’ throwbacks want the Oklahoma equivalent of The Handmaid’s Tale– and not soon enough).
Like the feudal lords of old, this good ol’ boy is carving out his own little white, straight, Protestant fiefdom – on our dime.