Newspaper editors were not exempt from early 20th-century lawmaking efforts. Another 1910 criminal statute tried to prevent the newspapers from publishing rumors and gossip. The misdemeanor kept an editor or owner from publishing “any statement which he has not good reason to believe is true” in order to increase newspaper sales.

Strange but true

In Oklahoma, anyone who participates in a duel and survives can be charged with a felony and, if convicted, be locked up. The law, passed in 1910, carried a 10-year sentence, but in 1999, lawmakers eliminated a specific prison term. Yes, it’s still illegal.

As a developing state, lawmakers passed and enforced laws against many forms of gambling. In 1916, lawmakers saw fit to punish owners or managers of cigar stands and hotel lobbies if people were caught throwing or shaking dice or participating in any other “game, scheme or device of chance.” If a person was found guilty of the misdemeanor charge, the penalty could result in a fine ranging from $25 to $100.

During early statehood, lawmakers curtailed wagering on elections. As a result, Oklahoma law prohibits anyone from offering or accepting any bet on election results, success or failure of a candidate or the total number of votes cast.

In 1915, the state Legislature decided fortune-telling fees should be banned. The law has never been amended.

Religion revered

When it comes to religious services, Oklahoma’s early lawmakers enforced a practice of serious worship. As a result, a law prohibits disturbance or interruption of “any assemblage” of people during a religious worship service. Those same legislators also made it clear that the Sabbath, known as the first day of the week, was meant as a holy day and “certain acts (are) deemed useless and serious interruptions of the repose and religious liberty of the community.”

However, there is a legal exception to breaking the Sabbath if people can show they consistently keep another day of the week as a holy time and don’t work during that period. Oklahoma law restricts these same people from disturbing their friends and neighbors on the traditional Sabbath day.

Sticking with the Sunday reli gious theme, Oklahoma law also bans car and liquor sales on the first day of the week.

Are you kidding?

Apparently, something as innocent as wearing a mask can land a person in jail. In 1923, Senate Bill 5 made it unlawful to don a mask while committing a crime or for the purpose of coercion, intimidation or harassment. If convicted of that crime, punishments range from a $500 fine to a year in the county jail.

But there was a list of exceptions, including children’s pranks on Halloween, masquerade parties and public parades. (Whew. Pranks were still legal!) Nearly 84 years later, the Oklahoma Legislature amended the law: “It shall be unlawful for any person in this State to wear a mask, hood or covering, which conceals the identity of the wearer.” The caveats were removed. However, another statute then made it illegal to wear a mask while assaulting another person.

Be kind to animals

In the 1990s, animal cruelty laws, including bans on bear wrestling, horse tripping and using live animals as a lure while training greyhounds, were fashionable.

As a source of entertainment, club and bar owners reportedly would host bear-wrestling events pitting man against beast, legal documents show. However, in some reported cases, the bears were chained and sedated with little chance of a fair fight.

Meanwhile, “horse tripping” means roping the front or hind legs of a galloping horse, causing it to fall. Most often, the trick was used in Mexican-style rodeos.

All Oklahoma criminal statutes can be found at

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