American Taliban: New legislation would result in students being coerced into Christian prayers in Oklahoma public schools.
SB 450 – also known as the “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” for Schools – claims to protect “voluntary religious expression in the classroom.” However, in reality, the legislation would force public school students to participate in Christian prayers.
The legislation officially sanctions school prayer in the classroom and at school sponsored events, and gives students permission to proselytize during class, lead a prayer over the school intercom during morning announcements, or introduce varsity sporting events with a prayer.
In short, the legislation is a not so quiet attempt to smuggle Christian prayers into public schools.
SB 450 purports to protect students from being discriminated against because of their religious views. But a quick review of its provisions reveal that it is just a ruse to instigate prayer in Oklahoma’s public schools.
The measure would prohibit school districts from restricting what it calls a student’s “voluntary religious expression in the classroom.” Under this bill, students could claim a right to proselytize fellow classmates during class and schools would have to allow students to deliver morning announcements and introduce varsity football games and any other school function “from a religious viewpoint.” No matter how the bill describes school prayer, it’s still school prayer.
The legislation stipulates that only a select few students will have the power to impose prayer on their fellow students:
Only those students in the highest two grade levels of the school and who hold one of the following positions of honor based on neutral criteria are eligible to use the limited public forum:
- President of the student council;
- Class President of the senior class, or if the school does not have a senior class, then the class president of the highest grade level of the school; and
- The captain or captains of the varsity football team.
Commenting on the stipulations, Tim Peacock at Peacock Panache notes:
Statistically, this would allow mostly one religious viewpoint in schools: Christianity.
Peacock is correct. The legislation claims to protect students’ religious freedom, but like most legislation dealing with religious freedom, the real purpose is to promote and privilege Christianity over all other viewpoints.
Americans United is asking Oklahoma voters to urge their state senators to vote against SB 450. Voters can send an email to their officials that includes the following text:
While students can join religious clubs and engage in student-led religious expression that does not disrupt school activities, this measure goes far beyond that. Under this bill, students could proselytize during class, lead a prayer over the school intercom during morning announcements, or introduce varsity football games with a prayer.
Oklahoma public schools should be a welcoming place for students of all faiths and none, but SB 450 will make students who practice their faith differently from the majority feel like outsiders in their own schools. Please vote NO on SB 450.
For the record, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already allows students to pray in school. However, SB 450 goes further. The legislation is a blatant attempt to establish and promote Christianity under the banner of “religious freedom.”
Bottom line: Oklahoma’s SB 450 is yet another attempt by conservative Christians to subvert the U.S. Constitution in their relentless attempt to remake the U.S. into a Christian theocracy.