A School Prayer Bill in Oklahoma Will Allow for More Student-Led, Administration-Supported Proselytization

Just days after the Mississippi legislature passed an unnecessary bill that would allow for even more Christian privilege in public schools, lawmakers in Oklahoma are doing the same thing, with much of the same language.

Rep. John Bennett

Rep. John Bennett sponsored and passed HB 1940 (PDF), which “guarantees the right of school students to talk about God and other religious subjects at school.”

Since that was already allowed, what was this really about? The text of the bill offers some clues:

To ensure that the school district does not discriminate against a publicly stated voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint by a student, if any, and to eliminate any actual or perceived affirmative school sponsorship or attribution to the district of the expression of a religious viewpoint by a student, if any, a school district shall adopt a policy, which shall include the establishment of a limited public forum for student speakers at all school events at which a student is to publicly speak.

That’s politic-speak for “Christians can proselytize whenever they want.”

It’s almost word-for-word the same text as the Mississippi bill.

And since he’s copying from them, I’ll say what I said before:

Here’s what that means in English: At football games, pep rallies, graduations, and morning announcements — anywhere where students speak — they must be allowed to pray. The school would have to offer a disclaimer that they’re not endorsing these views, but rather offering a “limited public forum.”

Since Christians are in the majority in the state, this means students of minority faiths (and no faith) would be subject to hearing Christian prayers at just about all school functions.

Randy Krehbiel of the Tulsa World reports that, in case there was any doubt, Bennett has religious motives for doing this:

Citing the prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal, Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, persuaded his Oklahoma House of Representatives colleagues to pass a bill Thursday morning he said guarantees the right of school students to talk about God and other religious subjects at school.

Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Chouteau, said the bill is really a thinly disguised attack on a non-existent “urban legend” that there is an “anti-God, anti-Christian atmosphere pervading public education.

But Bennett and his supporters seemed to be in at least partial disagreement.

“We are a Christian nation, maybe not formally, but we are a Christian nation,” said Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, debating in favor of the bill.

The bill passed 79-13 in the House and now it’s up to the Republican-controlled Senate and the Republican Governor… so this bill isn’t getting stopped anytime soon.

Even sadder, though, is that even the bill’s opponents voted in favor of Christian superiority. When pressed on why they were against this bill, they said they worried that it would lead to more lawsuits and “open the door for ‘demonics, Muslims and Buddha’”…

In other words, their concern was that this bill would allow for non-Christian points of view to be heard.

And we can’t have that now, can we?

For any Oklahoma (or Mississippi) students who want to fight back against this bill, the way to do it is to become a speaker at a school event next year and start leading the school in non-Christian prayer. Pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Say God doesn’t exist. Better yet, pray to Allah. Use the Christians’ own law against them.

For adults (especially Christians), speak out against this bill and those who voted for it. And then please, please, please urge your friends and family members to vote these theocrats out of office.

I know that’s asking a lot, but it has to start somewhere.

(Thanks to Beau for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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