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Oklahoma City, OKLA. – The Oklahoma State Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Tuesday, Feb. 22 to progress Senate Bill 383, addressing what they claim to be an unjust censorship of political and religious speech on social media. A state senator wrote the bill under a cloud of disinformation and lies surrounding the challenges to the 2020 election. Those lies ultimately incited insurrection on Jan. 6. Yet, no significant evidence exists supporting claims of patterns of sweeping unconstitutional censorship.
Senator Rob Standridge (R-Norman) authored SB 383 and has a long history of problematic views. On his campaign page, Standridge equates social welfare programs to “nothing short of social slavery.” In late 2020, Standridge filed a bill to amend current legislation governing punishments for people charged with participating in a riot. Ironically, in the wake of an attempted insurrection by supporters of former President Donald Trump, BWSTimes is not aware of any public comment from Standridge calling for enhanced punishment of Oklahomans who stormed the U.S. Capitol.
This move by the Senate Judiciary Committee has set off alarm bells across the state. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma was especially disturbed by the move. Nicole McAffee is director of policy and advocacy for ACLU-OK. She expressed a growing concern over the dramatic shift towards policy moving Oklahoma closer to a police state.
ACLU-OK has great concern for the growing pile of bills with glaring civil rights issues and violations, according to McAffee. She continued, “the biggest concern we have at this time is not any one specific bill, but what appears to be a wave of legislation that intends to cause a lot of harm to civil rights activists. Specifically, legislators seem to be working to criminalize the kind of advocacy that calls for accountability within their own offices.”
Six Republicans and three Democrats make up the Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee. State Senator James Leewright did not vote on the passage of this bill. Nevertheless, the bill passed with unanimous support from the Republican members.
Freedom of speech and religion (unless you were indigenous to this land) were unequivocally bedrock principles on which this country was built. But context is a critical function of legislating within a democratic society. You can’t (or we thought you couldn’t) incite an insurrection or use hate speech. Yet, it seems some elected officials in Oklahoma can draft policy affecting our democratic systems despite publicly supporting anti-democratic initiatives.
Here’s a look at the folks who voted in support of advancing SB 383 out of the Judiciary Committee.
Senator Julie Daniels (R-Bartlesville) is Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee Chair and recently voted against Medicaid expansion. Daniels is also a supporter of the “Back the Blue” bill. It would allow cities to paint on public roads in support of law enforcement but excludes messages that bring attention to the unjust murder of Black Oklahomans. As a state house representative, Daniels also supported measures requiring county jail systems to do the bidding of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The other members include: Senator Darcy Jech (R-Kingfisher), the Senate Judiciary Committee vice-chair. Senator David Bullard (R-Durant), Senator Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle), and Senator Darrell Weaver (R-Moore) also make up the committee. Senator James Leewright (R-Bristow) sits on the committee but did not vote. The bill now moves closer to a full vote on the Oklahoma Senate floor.