The state of separation between state and church is not OK right now in the Oklahoma Statehouse, warns the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
FFRF vehemently opposes two embarrassingly unconstitutional bills, one of which passed the Oklahoma House General Government Committee and the other which is before the Senate Education Committee.
Last week, the House committee shockingly passed House Bill 3890, a patently unconstitutional bill declaring “The Holy Bible” the “official state book.” The bill, even more absurdly, was introduced by Rep. Tammy Townley, a former Christian bible bookstore owner.
The bill is like a Religious Right caricature: A legislature in our secular nation may not endorse one religious teaching over others, or over nonreligion. The bill violates both the Oklahoma and the U.S. Constitutions. Imagine the uproar and consternation that would attend the introduction of a resolution to designate the Quran as Oklahoma’s “official state book”!
The other pernicious bill, SB 1470, would restrict teachers’ ability to teach evolutionary science and other important but potentially controversial subjects. Misnamed the Students’ Religious Belief Protection Act, the bill would ban public school employees from taking any position contrary to any students’ “sincerely held religious beliefs.” A teacher could be fired, banned from future employment, or even fined $10,000 simply because a student claims religious offense to a fact-based lesson. If fined, teachers would be prohibited from seeking financial help from others, directly hitting the teacher’s personal bank account.
The language of this bill could encompass any teacher or public school employee who teaches world religions, evolution, or any other aspect of education where a parent could claim that the teacher encroaches on their students’ beliefs by teaching the subject. It is intended to intimidate teachers and chill public education.
“Public schools exist to educate, not to indoctrinate, and certainly not to weaponize ‘religious beliefs’ by students in a way that it stifles critical thinking and learning,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
“Designating the bible as Oklahoma’s ‘state book’ is such an obvious affront to the constitutional separation between religion and government,” Barker added. “Extremist Oklahoma legislators sponsoring and voting for such unAmerican legislation act like we live under a Christian theocracy, not in a democratic republic.”
The bible-as-a-state-book bill is headed to a floor vote, where, FFRF hopes, reason will prevail and it will fail.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national state/church watchdog that also serves as a membership group for freethinkers (atheists and agnostics), with more than 36,000 members.