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FFRF criticizes Okla. AG's school 'religious freedom' initiative

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter today to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is offering support to Oklahoma schools to "defend religious freedom"—which is what he

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter today to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is offering support to Oklahoma schools to "defend religious freedom"—which is what he calls making sure people can distribute bibles to public school students.

Pruitt sent a letter to every school district in Oklahoma saying he was aware that several Oklahoma school districts had been "threatened" by FFRF, and advised school districts that "it is in fact legal for schools to allow the dissemination of religious literature and that I will take a stand to defend the religious freedom of Oklahomans."

FFRF previously sent letters to 26 Oklahoma school districts that allowed Jamison Faught, son of Oklahoma State Representative George Faught, and other members of Gideons International to distribute bibles to students during the school day. FFRF educated the districts on the law and advised them that if they continued to allow third-party distributions to students, FFRF would seek to distribute its literature.

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 members.

"As you must be aware, courts have uniformly held that the distribution of bibles to students at public schools during instructional time is prohibited," said FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel in the letter to Pruitt.

Pruitt advised schools to implement a policy that allows for anyone to distribute literature to students on a neutral basis. Seidel informed him that several of the school districts contacted by FFRF already had such policies, but decided to "revisit the wisdom of these forums" after FFRF asked to distribute its own literature.

"It is obviously far easier for an Oklahoma student to get a hold of a bible than it is to get a hold of criticisms of the bible, which FFRF will seek to pass out in every public school forum that is opened under your offer. 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," said FFRF.

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

Seidel pointed to FFRF's dealings with Florida's Orange County Public Schools, which refused to let FFRF distribute its literature on the same terms as a group distributing bibles. FFRF sued over the censorship, and the school district eventually decided to close the forum.

FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with more than 22,000 members, including members in Oklahoma.

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