© 2021
In touch with the world ... at home on the High Plains
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Oklahoma schools ordered to use Bible in history teaching

Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters ordered all public schools in the state to keep the Bible in classrooms and use it as a teaching tool.
Nuria Martinez-Keel
/
Oklahoma Voice
Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters ordered all public schools in the state to keep the Bible in classrooms and use it as a teaching tool.

Oklahoma’s top education official on Thursday ordered all public schools in the state to incorporate the Bible into their curriculum as a historical text.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters said he wants the Bible kept and taught in every Oklahoma classroom, particularly how it is referenced in America’s history and founding documents.

“We’re going to be looking at the Mayflower Compact (and) other of those foundational documents to point to and say, listen, here’s conceptually what the founders believed,” Walters said while speaking with news reporters on Thursday.

State academic standards for social studies already require schools to teach students about the impact of religion on U.S. society and government.

The academic standards are a lengthy list of topics Oklahoma public schools must teach. Local school districts are allowed the freedom to decide their own curriculum, or how they teach the standards.

Walters’ announcement drew quick opposition from Democratic lawmakers and groups advocating for separation of church and state.

The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the order would further marginalize religious minorities in public schools and violate religious freedom. The Muslim civil rights organization has advocated against adding specific religious teachings to the classroom.

“Although we and the American Muslim community recognize the important historical and religious significance of the Bible, forcing teachers to use it and only it in their curriculum is inappropriate and unconstitutional,” said Adam Soltani, director of the Oklahoma chapter. “We adamantly oppose any requirements that religion be forcefully taught or required as a part of lesson plans in public schools, in Oklahoma, or anywhere else in the country.”

State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, said the matter could end up in court, costing the state taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, she said it fails to “provide solutions to the real problems facing our schools,” like the teacher shortage and falling below the regional average in public education funding.

Oklahoma already has been grappling with the role of religion in public schools. The state Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a publicly funded Catholic charter school that was weeks away from opening in the state. The Court found the concept of a religious, state-funded school is unconstitutional and a violation of state law.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond led the legal challenge against opening the Catholic charter school, called St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School. But when reached for comment Thursday, his office did not raise alarm bells over Walters’ order on Bible teaching.

“Oklahoma law already explicitly allows Bibles in the classroom and enables teachers to use them in instruction,” the AG’s spokesperson, Phil Bacharach, said.

Walters has been a vocal supporter of St. Isidore. He called the Court’s ruling on the Catholic charter school “one of the worst” of its decisions and said the concept of separation of church and state is “a myth.”

Oklahoma Catholic leaders indicated they intend to appeal the ruling. A meeting agenda for the school’s Board of Directors states St. Isidore will “delay opening to students at least until the 2025-2026 school year, as it seeks review by the United States Supreme Court.”

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Copyright 2024 KGOU

Oklahoma Voice