Oklahoma AG smears FFRF, misleads public

After the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent letters to 26 Oklahoma school districts about illegal bible distribution, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt went on the offensive (you can take that two ways).

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel’s February complaint letters objected to letting Jamison Faught (son of state Rep. George Faught) and other Gideons International members distribute bibles to fifth-grade students during the school day. FFRF educated the districts on the law and advised them that if they continued to allow third-party distributions, FFRF would seek to distribute its literature.

Faught had bragged on Facebook about being allowed to distribute bibles “at every school in McIntosh, Okmulgee and Ofuskee counties except one or two. Last year, the Checotah principal not only personally took us to each classroom, but he helped us hand them out!”

In response to the letter, several schools ended their open forum policies, with at least one superintendent confirming he did not know the Gideons had been allowed into the schools. Gideons typically operate by deliberately avoiding superintendents and school boards, seeking permission from lower-level, less-informed staff.

In his response letter April 14 to superintendents statewide, Pruitt smeared FFRF and trumpeted false claims about government’s hostility toward religion.
“Schools have a right to enact neutral policies that allow all viewpoints on religion to thrive,” Pruitt wrote. “As the Attorney General of Oklahoma, I will not stand idly by while out-of-state organizations bully you or any other official in this State into restricting the religious freedom the Founders of this country held dear.”
Seidel responded to Pruitt the next day, informing him that several districts contacted by FFRF already had such policies, but decided to “revisit the wisdom of these forums” after FFRF asked for equal time.

“It is obviously far easier for an Oklahoma student to get hold of a bible than it is to get hold of criticisms of the bible, which FFRF will seek to pass out in every public school forum that is opened under your offer,” Seidel wrote. “If the goal of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office is to allow public schools to be used to distribute atheist messages, then this is a brilliant idea.”

However, he added, “FFRF prefers that public schools focus on education rather than serve as a venue for divisive religious debates.”

It’s not the first time Pruitt has smeared FFRF. Last year, in discussing the Internal Revenue Service’s inaction against pulpit politicking, he claimed FFRF “is unabashed in its desire to destroy” free speech and the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.

Freedom From Religion Foundation