Oklahoma: Bill to Protect Schools That Offer Elective Bible Courses

Kyle Loveless

A proposed bill hopes to protect public schools in Oklahoma from any legal action should they want to offer elective Bible courses to their students in the future. After a school district in Oklahoma faced some opposition last year for agreeing to offer a religious course designed by Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, Senator Kyle Loveless decided to introduce Senate Bill 48 that would allow schools to do such a thing in the future.

As reported earlier, the Mustang School Board had agreed last year to offer its students the Museum of the Bible curriculum designed by Green. Green had made his proposal to the school administration in 2013, explaining to those present that he would want to make available an introductory course on both Old and New Testaments and the impact they have on society. Mustang School district Superintendent Sean McDaniel invited Green to pitch his proposal, after which the school board decided to go forward with the course. A subsequent poll carried out by the school board also revealed that 170 students were willing to opt for the religious course as their first choice for an elective.

However, Freedom From Religion Foundation along with Americans United for Separation of Church and State opposed the course, saying it would violate the American Constitution. They went on to file for a freedom of information request that would help them obtain documents to prove the level at which the school board was involved in proposing the curriculum. After sending a second freedom of information request, both groups received a mail from McDaniel, who informed them that the school board had decided against the course.

Yet, now, Loveless is pitching a bill that will protect school districts, such as Mustang, from any legal action if they ever feel pressured, by any church-state separation or atheist group, to withdraw religious courses that they otherwise want to offer to their students.

“The district and others across Oklahoma have shown interest in having such a class, as an elective, and I am just wanting to keep them from feeling threatened of lawsuit or from not offering a class such as this,” said Loveless. “The [Mustang] district projected that there were going to be between 20-30 students interested in the elective. In actuality, 180 students signed up.… They were extremely disappointed in having the class cancelled.”

Loveless justified the content of his bill by saying he drafted it only after constituents approached him, requesting him to protect schools in such instances.

“I don’t see anything wrong with [a provision] that gives local school districts the ability to study the historical aspects of the Bible. That’s my reasoning for the bill.… It is not a forced class and this would not be a ‘Sunday School’ type course. We are not endorsing one religion over the other,” he said.

“A school district and its employees and agents shall incur no liability as a result of providing an elective course in the objective study of religion or the Bible,” the bill reads.

If passed, the proposed bill would be put to effect this summer, before the new academic session commences.

Photo Credits: Rawstory

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