‘Personhood’ ballot initiative pushed by minister

Posted on April 21, 2012

Tulsa World, April 21, 2012 by Bill Sherman

SAND SPRINGS – A minister is mounting a campaign to get churches involved in a ballot initiative to extend legal rights to the unborn.

The Rev. Robert Haling prepared 29 packets on the ballot initiative and delivered them to Sand Springs churches. The packets tell churches how to get involved. Haling, of Calvary Baptist Church, also has approached state Baptist leaders.

The initiative by Personhood Oklahoma is seeking a statewide vote to change the Oklahoma Constitution to say that “personhood” begins at conception.

Dan Skerbitz, director of Personhood Oklahoma, said about 500 churches statewide are helping with the effort.

“We’re very pleased with the effort so far,” he said.

The initiative is generally opposed by pro-choice groups, who think it could jeopardize the right to abortion. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit last month to prevent a statewide vote on the question. The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance has spoken against the initiative.

Promoters need to collect 155,000 valid signatures by the end of May to put the question on the November ballot.

Skerbitz said he did not have solid information on the number of signatures collected so far because many volunteers have not reported in.

“We’re pushing full steam ahead,” he said. “We don’t intend to slow down.”

Haling said that so far the response to his efforts has been cool.

“I sense a lack of interest from Christian people,” he said. “They say they’re pro-life, but they won’t even sign the petition.”

Ministers won’t get involved because they say it’s a political issue, he said, adding “It’s not political; it’s a moral issue.”

Haling, who was born in Nazi Germany during World War II, said he sees a parallel between the silence of U.S. Christians on abortion and the silence of German Christians as Jews were being hauled to Nazi death camps.

His father was killed in the war.

“I wonder what my parents did about the Holocaust … and I wonder what my children and grandchildren will say about what I did to end abortion,” he said.

Haling said he has visited the German concentration camp where Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran minister, was executed after he took a public stand against Adolf Hitler.

“Very few evangelical pastors in Germany stood up against the Nazis,” he said.

Unrelated to the ballot initiative, which would result in a vote of the people, Oklahoma lawmakers considered a personhood bill this session. On Thursday, the House Republican Caucus announced that it would not take up the bill this year.

Posted in: Oklahoma