FFRF denounces Okla. Supt. Walters’ push for religion, 10 commandments

Update: In a previous version of its press release, FFRF stated that Superintendent Ryan Walters had formed the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Founding Principals. The group was formed by a group of pastors.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is condemning Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ broad-ranging theocratic proposals yesterday.

During a state Board of Education meeting, Walters called for promotion of Christianity and “Western heritage” in every classroom, including display of the Ten Commandments. The proposals were recommendations from a group calling itself the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Founding Principles, which formed in February to “advise and recommend guidance to local school systems on how to protect every student and parents’ freedom to worship.” At that time, FFRF wrote to Walters objecting to the group’s creation at the behest of several Oklahoma Christian leaders.

Walters has now endorsed the council’s recommendation that the Ten Commandments be displayed in each classroom and that the state require a “Western civilization” course for graduation “to strengthen the heritage which was integral to the nation’s founding and its Western culture, as well as to foster gratitude and informed citizenship.”

Walters called the promotion of faith in classrooms a way to restore morality, and said “the current national left-wing indoctrination is attempting to destroy religion as a way to destroy our entire country.” State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, who used to be a teacher, objected that the department was focusing on the wrong issues. “We have much bigger things to kind of dig into when it comes to education here in Oklahoma,” Rosecrants remarked.

FFRF had written to Walters last month after he called for Oklahoma public schools to ban 190 books on the American Library Association’s Rainbow Book List, which is a curated list of books with LGBTQ-plus representation.

Walters recently penned a piece for Tulsa World in which he “welcomed” religious charter schools. The column opened with a clear pronouncement of Walters’ embrace of Christian nationalism: “Our Founders believed in a godly nation. In recent history, we’ve drastically changed the Founders’ hopes and beliefs in a nation under God.” The piece promoted common Christian nationalist distortions.

State education exists to cultivate the minds of young students and promote independent thinking — in short to educate, not indoctrinate. The state Department of Education is a public entity and must respect the rights of conscience of Oklahoma’s students. Walter’s Christian nationalist push alienates nonreligious students. At least a third of U.S. teens (32 percent) say they are religiously unaffiliated, including 6 percent who describe themselves as atheists, 4 percent who are agnostics and 23 percent who say their religion is “nothing in particular.” Nonreligious Americans are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification — 35 percent of Americans are non-Christians, and this includes the more than three-in-ten adult Americans (29 percent) who now identify as religiously unaffiliated.

FFRF previously announced it planned to take legal action if Texas required the Ten Commandments in its schools; it would similarly act if this happens in Oklahoma. It is also preparing to take legal action over the Catholic charter school.

“Walters repeats the Big Lie that our nation was founded on belief in a deity,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “when in fact the Framers adopted the world’s first godless and entirely secular Constitution. They wanted a nation where individuals could believe — or disbelieve — as they wish, and that requires the government to stay out of the religion business.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the largest national association of freethinkers, representing 40,000 atheists, agnostics, and others (including hundreds of members in Oklahoma) who form their opinions about religion based on reason, rather than faith, tradition or authority.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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