A state lawmaker who has faced criticism for his handling of the House chaplain program has resigned from his position as the program’s coordinator.
State Rep. Chuck Strohm, R-Jenks, issued a statement Friday concerning his resignation. He said communications regarding the program should now be directed to Speaker of the House Charles McCall.
“It has been a tremendous honor serving as the chaplain coordinator for the Oklahoma House. Effective immediately, however, I will no longer be serving in this role,” Strohm said in a prepared statement released through the House of Representatives communications and public affairs office.
“Having the opportunity to meet so many pastors from our great state has been a tremendous honor and has inspired me to grow in my walk with the Lord Jesus.”
According to the House news release, Strohm has served as coordinator for the chaplain program throughout the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. In this role, the news release said, he has been the point of contact for scheduling chaplains to provide an “inspirational message and prayer” at the beginning of each legislative day.
Strohm came under fire in February when a Muslim leader revealed that his application to participate in the House Chaplain of the Day/Chaplain of the Week program had been denied without Strohm explaining the reasoning behind the rejection.
Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said State Rep. Jason Dunnington had asked him to apply for the opportunity to give the morning invocation for the House.
Leaders from the interfaith community criticized Strohm for giving no explanation for his rejection of Enchassi’s application. They also expressed outrage when the legislator changed the program’s guidelines in January so that representatives could only invite a chaplain from their own house of worship to participate in the program.
Because the legislature is majority Christian, interfaith leaders said Strohm’s changes were discriminatory because they effectively eliminated non-Christians from participating as chaplain.
Strohm announced further changes to the program a few weeks later, saying that the program would transition to a model similar to the congressional chaplain program. In the new format, legislators would vote on a chaplain who would then oversee the chaplain program.
Friday, Enchassi said he never asked for Strohm’s resignation, only an explanation for the lawmaker’s refusal to call him to participate in the chaplain program.
“All this treats the symptoms and not the core problem,” Enchassi said. “The problem is that he flat discriminated against one religious leader based on the beliefs of that leader. And when he was faced with pressure from the interfaith community, he doubled down by discrimination against all non-Christian religions.”