Senate Bill 450 Violates Religious Freedom

Required Prayers

Oklahoma -- SB 450, also known as the “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” for Schools is the legislation which claims to protect “voluntary religious expression in the classroom.” However, the new bill, if passed, would force public school students to participate in Christian prayers.

One part of SB 450 reads: “Religious groups shall be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as is given to other noncurricular groups without discrimination based on the religious content of the students’ or groups’ expression. If student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to advertise or announce meetings of the groups, the school district shall not discriminate against groups that meet for prayer or other religious speech. School authorities may disclaim sponsorship of noncurricular groups and events, provided they administer such disclaimer in a manner that neither favors nor disfavors groups that meet to engage in prayer or other religious speech.”

According to the “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act”, only a select few students will have the power to impose prayer on their fellow students:

Only those students in the highest two grade levels of the school and who hold one of the following positions of honor based on neutral criteria are eligible to use the limited public forum:

  1. President of the student council;
  2. Class President of the senior class, or if the school does not have a senior class, then the class president of the highest grade level of the school; and
  3. The captain or captains of the varsity football team.

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Commenting on the stipulations, Tim Peacock at Peacock Panache notes: “Statistically, this would allow mostly one religious viewpoint in schools: Christianity.”

Americans United For Separation of Church and State said about SB 450: “SB 450 purports to protect students from being discriminated against because of their religious views. But, a quick review of its provisions reveal that it is just a ruse to instigate prayer in Oklahoma’s public schools.” “Religious freedom is a fundamental American value. Forcing prayer upon public-school students violates this freedom and make students who practice their faith differently from the majority, who adhere to minority faiths or who are non-theists feel like outsiders,” they added.

Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education also spoke out against SB 450 – “The bill is unnecessary to protect student expression of religious viewpoints, because most of the provisions of the bill already exist in current law.” For the record, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Oklahoma Constitutions and federal and Oklahoma state law already guarantee religious freedom.

Photo Credits: The View from the Rocking Chair

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