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Oklahoma House lawmakers pass bill to expand ‘Stand Your Ground’ law to places of worship

OKLAHOMA CITY - House lawmakers have passed a bill expanding the 'Stand Your Ground' law into places of worship against an intruder.

House Bill 2632, authored by Rep. Greg Babinec, R-Cushing passed the floor by a vote of 62-21.

"This is about protecting my family and my church family in a place of worship," Babinec said during debate.

The 'Stand Your Ground' law currently allows people to use deadly force if they feel like they are in danger.

Speaking in favor of the bill, Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw argued people had both a constitutional and biblical right to defend themselves.

"Because of this evil world we live in, we have to run bills just like this. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a good bill. It’s for a good reason, and it’s clearly justified in scripture and in our constitution," Bennett said.

However, opponents urged members to carefully read the language, particularly Section F on page 3, which states a person who uses deadly force is "immune from criminal prosecution and civil action." Rep. Collin Wallke, D-Oklahoma City questioned who would be responsible if an innocent person was shot.

"This not about being anti-gun. This is not about being anti-second amendment. This is about being unintended consequences," Walke said. "If you have a gun in a house of worship, somebody comes in and they start shooting and then you shoot at the intruder and miss and they hit your child, your daughter, your son, your wife, my wife who’s a minister, I can’t pursue that person in the court of law. That’s what this bill says."

Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa questioned the phrase 'a place of worship' questioning whether the legislature was leaving too much room for interpretation.

"I know what you mean by a place of worship because I would view the term probably the same as you," Blancett told Babinec on the floor. "Would it be possible that someone might legally say that they’re in a place of worship if they’re there to worship satanism or if they’re in a place to worship capitalism?"

In response to opponents questioning the need for the bill, Babinec responded with "Let’s talk about need. Ladies and gentlemen, Madam Speaker… did Rosa Parks have a need to ride in the front of the bus? In a free country, you do not have a prove, a need to exercise your God-given right."

Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus chairman Rep. George Young, D-Oklahoma said he found the comment demeaning.

"I was a pastor for 30 years, and I’ve been black all my life so, yeah, it was inappropriate in both ways," Young said. "To name someone who stood for a faith and belief that things could be better not by force but by being not violent, it just went the wrong way with me."

Babinec sent this statement in response to the criticism:

“The question asked was whether this right was ‘necessary.’ My point was that we live in a nation where we have certain rights, and we don’t have to show a need to exercise those rights. My example of Rosa Parks standing up for her rights was an homage to her role as a leader in the Civil Rights movement, and it was spot on. It was Rosa Parks’ right to sit in the front of that bus, and she should not have had to answer to anyone who might have asked why it was necessary for her to exercise that right. The right to defend oneself and others from harm is a God-given right, just as is the right to be treated equally as human beings.”

The bill now heads to a Senate committee for consideration.