Last week, we wrote about the passing of SB 286, which repeals a couple of antiquated laws, including the crimes of "seduction of an unmarried woman" and "imputing to any female . . . a want of chastity." Now that it's no longer against the law to have premarital sex or to claim a woman has loose morals, we thought it might be fun to look at a few other outdated and strange laws that remain in Oklahoma's criminal code.
You may have heard it said that it is against the law in Oklahoma for a bar owner to allow anyone inside--patron or staff--to pretend to have sex with a buffalo. Technically, this is true, although the law is far less explicit in defining with which animal a person may feign copulation.
The Oklahoma statutes in 37 O.S. § 537.2 deal with nudity, sexual contact, and simulated sexual activity in bars. Typically, these laws apply to strip clubs--it's where Oklahoma law states that dancers in these establishments cannot be fully nude and must have their nipples covered. Included in the law is the provision that, "No owner, operator, partner, manager, or person having supervisory control of any establishment licensed to sell or serve intoxicating beverages shall permit . . . The performance by any person of acts, or simulated acts, of sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation, flagellation, or any sexual acts which are otherwise prohibited by law."
So, yes. It is against the law for a bar owner to allow a person in the establishment to pretend to have sex with a buffalo--or a flounder, or a kangaroo, or a person.
Now that we're through talking about strip clubs, let's go the complete opposite direction to hear what the law in the buckle of the Bible Belt says about how to behave in church. According to state law talking loudly during church is a misdemeanor crime. State law in 21 O.S. § 915 reads, "Every person who willfully disturbs, interrupts or disquiets any assemblage of people met for religious worship, by any of the acts or things hereinafter enumerated, is guilty of a misdemeanor."
What is important to note there is the "by any of the acts or things hereinafter enumerated." In other words, not every disruption is criminal--only those listed in § 916:
The following are the acts deemed to constitute disturbance of a religious meeting:
1. Uttering any profane discourse, committing any rude or indecent act, or making any unnecessary noise, either within the place where such meeting is held, or so near it as to disturb the order and solemnity of the meeting.
2. Exhibiting, within one (1) mile, any shows or plays without a license by the proper authority.
3. Engaging in, or aiding or promoting within the like distance, any racing of animals or gaming of any description.
4. Obstructing in any manner, without authority of law, within the like distance, the free passage along any highway to the place of such meeting.
"Making any unnecessary noise" as stipulated in the first example could include loud talking if it "disturb[s] the order and solemnity of the meeting." So could your ringing cell phone. Turn it off or put it on silent, you criminal.
Section 905 of the Oklahoma criminal code functions as a state-sanctioned swear jar: "Every person guilty of profane swearing is punishable by a fine of One Dollar ($1.00) for each offense." Stubbed your toe? Pay up.
This next law sucks the fun right out of the loud conversation in the restaurant booth next to yours or the bluetooth chatter on his cell phone in Walmart. Eavesdropping is against the law, according to 21 O.S. § 1202: "Every person guilty of secretly loitering about any building, with intent to overhear discourse therein, and to repeat or publish the same to vex, annoy, or injure others, is guilty of a misdemeanor." Okay, so maybe it's not quite illegal to listen to the discussion at the table next to yours, but if you are sneaking around to hear the conversation, and you spread the information around, you could be guilty of a misdemeanor under Oklahoma law.
Certainly, Oklahoma has some strange and outdated laws, but many of the ones you hear about are literal and virtually unheard of interpretations of a broadly
written law. Still, the law is the law. Keep that in mind next time a buffalo starts making googly eyes at you in a bar.