RELIGION
01/21/2015 01:05 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2015

Oklahoma Pastors Don Hoodies To Protest Proposed Bill

A proposed bill in Oklahoma would make it illegal to conceal one's identity in public "by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise." Many have taken this to be an attack on hoodies and fear implementation of the law will lead to intensified racial profiling.

Several Oklahoma pastors like Semaj Vanzant of Christ United Methodist Church showed up for services on Sunday wearing sweatshirts to protest the bill, using their hoods to make a statement for freedom and equality.

"I’m pretty sure that there are more people than those that are gathered here at this church, more people than ones that look like me, that do not want this law or this proposal put into action," Vanzant told KFOR. "Whatever way we can voice our voice and make our statements, we will do so in an effort to make sure this type of law or proposal does not end up in the books of Oklahoma State."

State Sen. Don Barrington is sponsoring the bill that legislators say is designed to increase public safety by "ensuring that people cannot conceal their identifies for the purpose of crime or harassment,” the senator told KFOR.

The Huffington Post reached out to Barrington's office for comment but did not receive a response.

The proposed legislation would amend an existing law that banned the wearing of hoods while committing crimes and was targeted at members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Oklahoma. In a modern context, those opposed to the bill point to the case of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black teen who was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot in 2012.

“The bill as written takes direct aim at the Guy Fawkes masks that were used as part of the Occupy movement, and it takes aim at hoodies, which became powerful symbols after the death of Trayvon Martin and as part of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement,” Oklahoma Rev. Jesse Jackson, unrelated to the civil rights activist, told Religion New Service.

Reverend Michael Riggs of First Christian Church joined Pastor Vanzant in wearing his hoodie to the pulpit on Sunday over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The reverend said he believed the bill would have the opposite intended effect and pave the way for abuses of power by police.

"It doesn't prevent another Ferguson from happening in Oklahoma," Riggs told KTUL. "But it would pave the way for the next one."

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