Most gubernatorial appointments elicit a giant y-a-w-n.
It's not that they aren't important. It's just that they often involve boards or commissions few ever heard of. Or they regulate the narrowest of special interests.
Occasionally, though, an appointment doesn't get near the public attention it deserves.
Such was the case recently when Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Norman attorney R. Marc Nuttle to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority board.
Unless you're a political junkie, you probably never heard of Nuttle. But he has a strong Republican pedigree.
In Oklahoma, he's worked in key positions for the likes of Henry Bellmon, Dewey Bartlett, Don Nickles and Jim Inhofe. Nationally, he was senior advisor to George H.W. Bush's 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns and served as national campaign manager for Pat Robertson's presidential bid.
He even was executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
A GOP big shot. Landing a big appointment from a GOP governor. No big deal. Right?
The big deal isn't that Marc Nuttle, Republican insider, was appointed to the state board that manages health care for the poor.
The big deal is what else Nuttle represents: He is deeply involved in a movement that not only would shatter the traditional American wall separating church and state, but also impose a Christian theocracy worldwide.
The movement is called Dominionism -- which the Religious News Service reports is a term generally ascribed to "the belief that Christians are biblically mandated to control all earthly institutions until the second coming of Jesus."
Nuttle is chairman of the board of a group called The Oak Initiative, which lists among its "strategy and objectives" "to raise up effective leaders for all of the dominant areas of influence in the culture, including: government, business, education, arts and entertainment, family services, media and the church (theoakinitiative.org)."
"For us," the group declares in its purpose statement, "it is not just a voting ballot or a single set of issues -- it's about being a part of an historical shift in a nation that is called to a destiny by God to disciple other nations."
It's a free country. Nuttle is welcome to believe whatever he wants. And to encourage others to join his crusades. Onward Christian soldiers, and all that jazz!
But there is a long, troubling history of the havoc that religious zealots -- no matter the faith tradition -- can wreak when they attain public positions of power.
You need look no further than the Texas State Board of Education, when extreme fundamentalists slipped into office and attempted -- among other things -- to rewrite science textbooks and history to fit their religious views.
Iran offers another prime example of what can happen when a somewhat modern, educated society is taken over by theocrats bent on imposing their views and eradicating all others.
The genius of America, and a primary reason we remain a beacon to the world, is pluralism -- we are free to say what we think and embrace any religion (or none). No government interference.
However, a cottage industry of pseudo-historians has popped up in recent years in an attempt to rewrite the nation's founding principles -- insisting the Founders were Christians creating a Christian nation.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Most were deists that believed a higher power created the world, and its natural laws, but otherwise took a hands-off approach to humankind.
Dominionism is an enemy of Thomas Jefferson's wall separating church and state. The principle doesn't mean your religion can't or shouldn't inform your politics or your views on public policy. It means that we have to be careful in crafting public policy and carrying out the functions of government not to impose our religious beliefs on others whose are different.
Rational. Fair. As it should be.
As a practicing Christian, I well know there are more shades of the faith than I can count. And not just denominationally, but also how people interpret the same scriptures.
I am repulsed, for example, by the Westboro Baptist Church crowd that pickets soldiers' funerals and spews a hate-filled theology. I am offended by the likes of state Rep. Sally Kern who publicly scorns homosexuals as a greater threat to America than terrorists. And I am deeply troubled by religious extremists of any stripe that seek to incite violence and otherwise divide us.
That is why it is important that we pay attention to those who are elected or appointed to government service. We must remain vigilant to ensure our public servants aren't driven by a narrow, egocentric agenda, but by a pursuit of the common good.
But it's also true that you can't be too vigilant these days when it comes to protecting our freedoms -- especially from those on the political fringe who wrap themselves in the flag, thump their Bibles and espouse glorious, patriotic rhetoric.
Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that Fallin or Nuttle are advancing some plot to impose their religious worldview on the rest of us. But I am suggesting it's important to know who's in the pack with our leaders.
Call it the you-sleep-with-dogs you-might-get-fleas theory.
And here's an example why it's important: State leaders, including Fallin, soon will have to decide whether Oklahoma opts into ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion. And the Oklahoma Health Care Authority board -- including Nuttle -- will undoubtedly influence the decision.
At first glance, it would appear to be a no-brainer: The authority estimates the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid provisions could save the state $47.8 million -- not an insignificant amount given the state's recent budget woes.
But this is not strictly a dollars-and-sense -- much less a common sense -- decision. It's a political decision.
And more than a few state GOP leaders live in mortal fear that being tied in any way to ObamaCare will leave them politically vulnerable to their party's noisy and increasingly influential wingnut wing.
Remember when Fallin first accepted -- then rejected -- the federal government's $54.6 million grant to set up a health insurance exchange?
She and other Republican leaders gambled that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn ObamaCare, eliminating its requirement that states set up the exchanges or risk the federal government imposing a plan. You know how that turned out.
Fallin, Nuttle and Co. presumably will be on the front lines of the Medicaid decision. You know now why gubernatorial appointments aren't always yawners.
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