Earlier this week, Scott Pruitt announced a new initiative “designed to defend religious freedom and provide support to Oklahoma schools facing intimidation.” Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt

Okla. attorney general wants private citizens to distribute religious literature in schools

Earlier this week, Scott Pruitt announced a new initiative “designed to defend religious freedom and provide support to Oklahoma schools facing intimidation.” Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt

Earlier this week, Scott Pruitt announced a new initiative “designed to defend religious freedom and provide support to Oklahoma schools facing intimidation.” Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt


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OKLAHOMA CITY (RNS) After a series of challenges to the distribution of Gideon Bibles in the state’s school districts, Oklahoma’s attorney general stepped in to defend the practice.

On Tuesday (April 14), Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced a new initiative “designed to defend religious freedom and provide support to Oklahoma schools facing intimidation.”

“Few things are as sacred and as fundamental to Oklahomans as the constitutional rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion,” Pruitt wrote in a letter to school superintendents. “It is a challenging time in our country for those who believe in religious liberty. Our religious freedoms are under constant attack from a variety of groups who seek to undermine our constitutional rights and threaten our founding principles.”

Pruitt’s initiative comes in response to a letter that the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent to 26 Oklahoma school districts warning them that they may be violating the First Amendment of the Constitution by allowing the distribution of Bibles during the school day.

Lawyers agreed that the foundation’s position reflects an accurate application of the law: Public schools may not distribute Bibles.

But Pruitt suggested an out: "Under the United States Constitution, school districts can permit private citizens to distribute to students religious literature, including bibles," he wrote. "To allow private citizens to do so,  the school should simply enact a neutral policy that allows equal access for all Oklahomans to engage their free exercise rights."

But as at least one media account pointed out, Pruitt may have inadvertently opened public school doors to atheists, Satanists and others wishing to distribute literature to  students.

“If private citizens want to distribute religious material or hold religious services in public schools, the schools must set up an open forum where all religious organizations can participate,” said Gary Allison, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Tulsa College of Law.

Pruitt is not alone in trying to bestow the Bible with special standing. Tennessee state legislators on Wednesday advanced a bill to make the Bible the official state book -- a measure the state attorney general in that state declared unconstitutional.

Oklahoma’s Bible tussle began earlier this month after a third-grade teacher in Duncan distributed Gideon Bibles to her students. In response, the Church of Ahriman, a Satanist church in Oklahoma City, has asked permission to distribute Satanist literature at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.

When the American Humanist Association threatened to sue, the Duncan school district responded by forbidding teachers or administrators from distributing religious material to their students.

Pruitt suggested that was a step too far.

“Under the U.S. Constitution, school districts can permit private citizens to distribute to students religious literature if the school district has in place a neutral policy that allows equal access for all Oklahomans to engage their free exercise rights,” said Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Pruitt.

Meanwhile, Andrew Seidel, legal counsel for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote to Pruitt in response: "If the goal of the Oklahoma Attorney General's office is to allow public schools to be used to distribute atheist messages, then this is a brilliant idea."

YS/MG END HORTON

Comments

  1. Doesn’t this idiot have a real job to do on the state’s dime? Like the head of criminal prosecutions on the state level. Something other than the constant violation of the first amendment in the name of “religious freedom”.

    Do Christians really have such disrespect for civil liberties? All signs point to yes.

  2. Looking at the big picture–allowing Gideon Bibles to be distributed at schools also means that other Religious literature also can be distributed at schools. Of course, this isn’t the intent and less we forget, this is America where we have Freedom OF Religion which means legally other information can be distributed.

    Studies are beginning to show that the GOP has recognized that using Religion to get them elected is a good practice. Unfortunately, those who listen to this “fear” tactic, do not see the big picture. In the long run, the followers lose more jobs, incomes, opportunities, freedoms, privileges, to name a few.

  3. That piece of crap is typical who thinks that the entire world is Christian and therefore it is perfectly fine to disobey Federal law that prohibits proselytizing and if permitting a version of the King James Version isn’t a CHRISTIAN BOOK I don’t know what is.

    They want THEIR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM while crapping all over the other religions in the world.

    There is only ONE God and it sure isn’t Jesus.

  4. Beverly,
    “There is only ONE God…..”
    And you know that how?
    a) because I said so
    b) because he/she/it said so
    c) I made it up myself
    d) just seems logical to me
    e) I am bone ignorant of the other gods
    f) I hate all the other gods
    g) The only other god is Satan
    h) three gods in one is two too many gods in one

  5. “But as at least one media account pointed out, Pruitt may have inadvertently opened public school doors to atheists, Satanists and others wishing to distribute literature to students.”

    Atheists and satanists? As if there is a difference?

    Anyway, bring it on. If Christians haven’t disappeared from the earth under the nonstop attacks by satanists-atheists in the Hollywood culture (you know, liberals and progressives) . . . they won’t have anything to worry about if atheism/satanism is allowed to compete in the free marketplace of ideas in the High School setting. Teens are not as stupid or corrupted (yet) as the average secular academic.

    Yes, yes, by all means, allow satanism/atheism a free ride into schools. C’mon now, we all know they have been cruising the schools with complete freedom since the first Humanist Manifesto made its first seducing introduction into the schools in the early 20th century.

    And yet, still Christians thrive.

    Comparisons?

    Bring it…

  6. @BMK,

    ” . . . disobey Federal law that prohibits proselytizing . . . ”

    Please provide proof of your ludicrous charge please.

    Start with the First Amendment if you would please. Or the rest of the Constitution where “the separation of Church and state is NO WHERE to be found.

    And please yet again, start with the First Amendment.

  7. Its called the 1st Amendment Establishment Clause, BB.

    This is why I never take people like you seriously when they start to talk about religious freedom. They have no idea what it really is.

  8. Or better yet UPHOLD THE LAW and let none of that nonsense in. If you want to give out Bibles in a school setting, go to Sunday School.

  9. Larry,

    “If you want to give out Bibles in a school setting, go to Sunday School.”

    Of course. Can’t be said any better.

    It is ‘better’ NOT…to do anything…that will be considered unfriendly to others. So whatever you believe about anything, keep between yourself and God…….Romans 14:21……and the 1st part of Romans 14:22

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