I attended the third session of the OCCJ Trialogue series today. Also attending from HAT were Marilyn Clarke and Brian Hill. The theme of this year’s Trialogue was “Jefferson’s Wall: The American Separation of Church and State.” It was disappointing that none of the three presenters was a strong supporter of church/state separation.
In the question and answer session which followed the presentations, written questions from the audience were addressed by the speakers. My question was chosen as the first one to be addressed. I asked: Do you expect to see further erosion in the wall separating church and state? The gist of the responses was: What erosion?
Daniel G. Gibbons, Professor of Law Emeritus at OU, who continues to teach a Church-State Relations Seminar, responded by saying he thinks the wall metaphor, while it may have been useful when it was first employed 200 years ago, is now out of date and no longer useful. Presenter Deron Spoo, pastor of Tulsa’s First Baptist Church, who otherwise struck me as a progressive sort, said things are fine and sees no disturbing trends regarding church/state relations. I don’t remember exactly how Msgr. Gaalaas of St. Benedict Catholic Church responded (I was still stunned by the responses from the first two), but it was along the lines of the first two.
It would have been nice if the OCCJ would have invited a strict separationist to be among the presenters today. The OCCJ’s motto is “We open minds.” I didn’t find anything mind opening in today’s presenters’ (accommodationists all) hostility to church/state separation.