“We need to cut unnecessary red tape and remove wasteful licensing fees for job creators in Oklahoma,” says Gov. Kevin Stitt, and he’s right. Overregulating employers is hampering the economy, but as Oklahomans know, individual licenses can adversely affect workers, too. Indeed, the Sooner State has the 18th-most burdensome occupational licensing laws in the country.

Under the guise of consumer protection and public safety, the state already requires upward of 30 percent of Oklahomans to clear time-consuming and expensive barriers to obtain a license to work. These requirements extend to professions like shampooers and packers, but the Legislature may add another questionable profession to its list of regulated industries. Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, recently filed Senate Bill 190, which would require individuals to be licensed to teach qigong. This legislation has massive potential to hurt a lot of people and criminalize innocent behavior.

Qigong has been around in various forms since 2600 B.C. According to the National Qigong Association, it is a “mind-body-spirit practice” that integrates “posture, movement, breathing technique, self-massage, sound, and focused intent.” There are thousands of different variations of qigong, each of which is associated with many health benefits.

So why does qigong need to be regulated?

Well, after meditating over SB 190, we were left scratching our heads. It’s bizarre to think that the government ought to regulate harmless spiritual practices and relaxation techniques. And yet as innocuous as qigong is, Rader would like to slap considerable regulations on its practice. His proposal would require those who wish to teach qigong to complete hours of education and pay the state for the privilege of working. Oddly enough, many of these provisions have nothing to do with qigong. Beyond these requirements, practicing qigong without a license would be punishable by fines of up to $5,000 and possible criminal charges.

Aside from being a solution in search of a problem, this proposal is problematic in several respects. First, a government occupational licensing board is ill-equipped to effectively license something that exists in thousands of different forms. Second, while the legislation would impose highly stringent regulations on those who teach only qigong, the state would not exact the same level of restrictions on other licensed health providers who happen to also educate people about qigong.

The legislation will have harmful effects on other Oklahomans as well. Occupational licensing restricts the supply of providers, which increases consumer prices and limits people’s access to qigong’s benefits. As should be the case, professions shouldn’t be restricted unless legitimate concerns exist, and a “mind-body-spirit practice” like qigong certainly does not meet that threshold.

Many individuals practice and teach qigong differently, and they shouldn’t be fined for sharing this ancient Chinese artform without state approval. In fact, the government shouldn’t even be in the business of licensing a peaceful, harmless practice that has existed safely without licensure for thousands of years.

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