Why Media Watchdogs Are Necessary: A Case Study

The ongoing need (and demand) for a variety of media voices was evidenced, recently, in a modern morality tale featuring a preacher and his prayer.

On Nov. 16th, at the take-the-oath-of-office ceremony for incoming Oklahoma legislators, held at the state capitol, an invocation was offered by a James Hewett, interim pastor of a Methodist church in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

Kris Steele

In a puff piece about the occasion, CapitolBeatOK noted:

(House speaker-elect Kris) Steele presided over the swearing-in session, which opened with a prayer from Dr. Jim Hewett of Steele’s home church, Wesley United Methodist. Hewett prayed for “wisdom and sensitivity to circumstances” in consideration of illegal immigration, among other things.

Among other things? Since CapitolBeatOk is too pro-establishment to go any further, let’s fill in the blanks.

First off, this Steele fellow is a RINO. The liberal Republican legislator has a cumulative score of 62 (out of a possible 100) on the Oklahoma Constitution’s legislative scorecard for 2010. Steele is also the associate minister of that Wesley United Methodist church. He’s the homeboy at the home church.

Second, Pastor Hewett is quite the devotee of trendy leftist causes. In his oration, Rev. Hewett used his opportunity to offer God a mea culpa for the Trail of Tears: ” … we know some came by forced relocations, against their will. To those we say, ‘We’re sorry for what our foreparents did to your forebears’ … ”

Regarding immigration: “Lord, God, we know that in this our land, some dwell and work, but it has yet to become their land. They’re aliens in our midst; give wisdom and sensitivity to circumstances and compassion to our legislators for these who labor and live among us without appropriate authorization. Lord, God, may Oklahoma become a model for our nation of just, fair, and functional policies of immigration.”

Rowdy bloggers, like The McCarville Report, made the prayer the story (as it should be), as did Ron Black’s Gorilla Rants. This is, after all, conservative Oklahoma, the baddest, reddest state; not the bluer-than-blue Massachusetts. The place which gets noticed (not in a good way) by the New York Times for drawing a line in the sand with regard to Sharia law.

Third, thanks to State Rep. Randy Terrill’s cutting-edge legislation, Oklahoma has been a model of just, fair, and functional immigration policies. You could even argue that the reverend’s prayer has already been answered. Three years ago, before Governor Jan Brewer became the poster girl for immigration reform, Terrill authored the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, which went into effect on November 1, 2007. The law mandated that businesses verify their employees’ work authorization status and made it a state crime to knowingly “transport, harbor, or shelter” illegal aliens.

The Sooner State is also poised to bring about Arizona-style legislation, since the new sheriff in town – Governor-elect Mary Fallin – was given a thumbs-up by … well, Jan Brewer.

Fourth, KTOK newsradio reported that several legislators were “upset” by the invocation but didn’t want to go on the record to the media outlet, just yet, “for fear of retaliation by Speaker Steele in making his House committee assignments …” Hmm. If true, that a) is kinda spineless of these lawmakers, and b) doesn’t make Associate Minister Steele sound like a turn-the-other-cheek sort of Christian. But, if true, it’s also pretty good reporting on KTOK’s part.

Fifth, this is not the first time that a minister’s public remarks have caused a firestorm in the OK lege. Last year, Reverend Scott Jones, who pastors the Cathedral of Hope in Oklahoma City, was the designated “Chaplain of the Day.” He offered a boiler-plate prayer about ‘peace and unity’ before the state House of Representatives.

Before the prayer, however, things got spicy, when the young minister acknowledged members of his congregation, his parents, and his friends who had gathered in the state house gallery. These included his “loving partner and fiancé, Michael.”

Never a dull moment, eh?

Moral of story: The more, the merrier when it comes to vigilant media watchdogs. Barkers, with some bite, are also welcome. Lap dogs – not so much.