Oklahoma mandates Bible teaching at public schools: 'Necessary historical document'

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The Oklahoma Department of Education has announced its intention to mandate that public schools in the state include Bibles in every classroom and teach about its historical significance as supporters of separation of church and state signal their intentions to fight back. 

Oklahoma State Superintendent of Instruction Ryan Walters said Thursday that he and his staff came to the conclusion based on the academic standards governing the state.

"The Bible is a necessary historical document to teach our kids about the history of this country to have a complete understanding of Western civilization, to have an understanding of the basis of our legal system," he said during the State Board of Education Regular Meeting

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Identifying the Bible as "one of the most foundational documents used for the Constitution and the birth of our country," Walters noted, "We also find major points in history that refer to the Bible, that reference the Bible."

He cited the Federalist Papers used to convince states to ratify the U.S. Constitution, arguments used during the Constitutional Convention and Martin Luther King, Jr. as examples of documents and people who "tied many of [their] arguments back to the Bible."

"It is essential that our kids have an understanding of the Bible and its historical context," he said.

Walters announced that his agency was issuing a memo asking school districts in the state to require that "every teacher, every classroom in the state will have a Bible in the classroom and will be teaching from the Bible in the classroom to ensure that this historical understanding is there for every student in the state of Oklahoma in accordance with their academic standards."

Throughout his remarks, Walters repeatedly mentioned Title 70 of the Oklahoma State Statutes when insisting that the state had the authority to require schools to teach about the Bible.

The statute declares that "School districts shall exclusively determine the instruction, curriculum, reading lists and instructional materials and textbooks, subject to any applicable provisions or requirements as set forth in law, to be used in meeting the subject matter standards."

"School districts may, at their discretion, adopt supplementary student assessments which are in addition to the statewide student assessments," the statute states.

The memo comes after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a state-funded Catholic charter school was unconstitutional. 

"You're not going to find the Separation of Church and State in the Constitution," Walters asserted at the meeting as he reacted to the decision and transitioned into talking about why he saw it as necessary for schools to teach about the Bible. 

In a statement published Thursday, Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser proclaimed, "Public schools are not Sunday schools."

"Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters has repeatedly made clear that he is incapable of distinguishing the difference and is unfit for office. His latest scheme — to mandate use of the Bible in Oklahoma public schools' curriculum — is a transparent, unconstitutional effort to indoctrinate and religiously coerce public school students," she added.

"This is textbook Christian Nationalism: Walters is abusing the power of his public office to impose his religious beliefs on everyone else's children. Not on our watch. Americans United is ready to step in and protect all Oklahoma public school children and their families from constitutional violations of their religious freedom."

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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