Rev. Prescott, who videotaped Scarborough's presentation, says more than 800 people streamed down the aisles, pledging to get involved politically at levels from school boards to the state Legislature. "Oklahoma," says Prescott, "is smack in the middle of this entire movement for the religious right."
Riding these dynamics, six years ago the Republican Party seized control of the Oklahoma House of Representatives for the first time. In 2008, it completed its Statehouse takeover by forging a Senate majority. Four of the state's five congressional seats are held by Republicans, and the lone Democrat, Dan Boren, is a conservative Blue Dog whose campaign signs hawk his endorsement by the National Rifle Association. And Mary Fallin, a deeply conservative religion-touting Republican, is favored to take the governor's mansion on Nov. 2 by an overwhelming margin, according to many polls.
There's no better indication of the current state of Oklahoma politics than Sens. Coburn and Inhofe. Both are involved with the secretive D.C.-based religious group known as The Fellowship or The Family, which stages the annual national prayer breakfast, attended by thousands of people each year along with many members of Congress and every president since Eisenhower, including Obama. That group works to spread its version of Christianity into the upper reaches of governments worldwide.
Coburn and Inhofe are ideological twins -- diverging only over the issue of congressional pork, the earmarks that direct federal spending and tax breaks to specific projects. Inhofe is happy to grab what he can for his home state and other favored entities, while Coburn's opposition to earmarks has helped elevate his profile nationally.
Both senators dismiss the scientific consensus on manmade climate change. They favor increased oil and gas drilling, even in areas widely considered environmentally sensitive, and are bullish on nuclear energy. Both are ardent supporters of gun rights; Coburn is best known in the West for getting the Senate to force the National Park Service to allow loaded guns in national parks.
Inhofe is a former state senator, Tulsa mayor and congressman who won a special election in 1994 to succeed Democratic Sen. David Boren, who resigned to become president of the University of Oklahoma. Even back then, Inhofe's campaign theme was "God, guns and gays." Fifty-eight percent of Oklahomans approve his stands, according to a recent poll -- a high rating for a politician who's been in office much of the last 40 years and uttered more than his share of provocative statements.
As a state senator in the early 1970s, Inhofe urged that South Dakota Democratic Sen. George McGovern and anti-war activist actress Jane Fonda be hanged for treason. Last year, he said he didn't need to read the health-care reform bill circulating in the Senate because he was going to vote against it anyway. He refused to even meet with President Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, because he already had made up his mind to oppose her confirmation.
Inhofe is best known for calling global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Though his father was an insurance executive, Inhofe was raised in Tulsa at a time when it still proudly called itself the Oil Capital of the World. He's never met an oil and gas industry program he couldn't embrace, and reviles environmentalists and scientists who want the nation to reduce its carbon footprint. He had a great deal of power over those issues when Republicans controlled the Senate, because he was chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, a platform he used to hamstring regulators and make life easier for his supporters in the oil and gas industry.
Inhofe's mockery reached new heights last winter. In the midst of a record-breaking snowstorm that virtually shut down the mid-Atlantic region, Inhofe and his family trudged to the national Capitol, built an igloo in a prominent spot and posted a cardboard sign on the roof that declared it "AL GORE'S NEW HOME" on one side and said "HONK IF YOU ♥ GLOBAL WARMING" on the other.
Inhofe never paid a political price for his long refusal to acknowledge the need to clean up one of the nation's worst toxic waste sites, the former mining region known as Tar Creek in northeastern Oklahoma. After decades of mounting evidence that lead contamination was poisoning residents, causing higher-than-normal incidence of cancer, learning disabilities and other problems, Inhofe finally relented in 2006, paving the way for programs to buy out and relocate residents and clean up the waste.
Coburn is a physician by training, a politician by chance and a born-again Christian by choice. His approval rating -- 66 percent in a recent statewide poll -- is so high that Oklahoma Democratic Party insiders debated whether anyone should even bother to run against him this year. The candidate who emerged from the Democratic primary didn't raise money, didn't have a political organization and hardly campaigned.
Coburn entered politics for the first time in 1994 in a U.S. House race, ousting incumbent liberal Democrat Mike Synar in the Newt Gingrich-Contract With America revolution. Coburn says he finds it "a pleasure ... to represent Oklahoma values in Washington."