FFRF to Okla. Supt. Walters: Resign

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is demanding that the Oklahoma state superintendent of public instruction immediately resign due to repeated misuse of his office to promote religion in public schools in disregard of his constitutional obligations.

Superintendent Ryan Walters held a press conference on July 11 in which he once again mangled the concept of religious freedom, claiming that there was “no more fine example today that religious liberty is under assault” than officials at Tulsa Public Schools prohibiting a school board member from imposing a sectarian religious prayer onto other people’s children. The Tulsa board took that action following a complaint by FFRF on behalf of students and parents. He claimed the school board member was “using her freedom of expression to say a prayer,” when government-sponsored prayer at a public school graduation has been held unconstitutional.

Walters has reportedly suggested that he would even retaliate against the school district in question by threatening its accreditation. This is a clear weaponization of the state’s education system to sacrifice students’ access to quality education unless a school system advances Walters’ chosen religion in defiance of constitutional dictates, the state/church watchdog charges.

“It is plain for Oklahomans to see that you are only concerned with advancing a Christian nationalist agenda that is antithetical to American values, rather than doing your job as state superintendent of public instruction,” FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker write.

Walters is a frequent state/church offender. FFRF wrote to him in February urging him to disband a religion-pandering committee pushing prayer and “expressions of faith in God” in schools. FFRF wrote him again in May to rebuke him over his call to ban 190 books and his asking for students to be taught from the Christian bible.

Last week, FFRF sent him a letter rebuking him for claiming to Fox TV, “In Oklahoma we are ending state-sponsored atheism,” which FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor called an “absurd” assertion. She reproached the superintendent for promoting “culture war tropes” instead of facts, including calling the bible “a foundational document” and claiming that the Declaration of Independence shows that the United States is based on the bible. The U.S Constitution is “godless,” and the Declaration states that authority is based on consent of the governed, not the bible, FFRF pointed out. FFRF further reminded him, after he said all soldiers during World War II fought to defend the idea that “rights came from God,” that there are indeed atheists in foxholes, including during that war.

Given repeated opportunities to defend Oklahoma students’ constitutional rights to access a quality secular education, Walters instead has chosen to repeatedly misuse his office to advance his personal religious beliefs and now threatens outright retribution against school districts adhering to the law. “As you appear to have no interest in fulfilling your duties and have demonstrated again and again that you are manifestly unfit to serve in your current role, you should resign immediately,” write FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor in their latest letter of complaint.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is an educational nonprofit with over 40,000 members nationwide, including hundreds in Oklahoma, that works to keep religion out of government and to educate the public about nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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