Oklahoma schools now required to have Bible in classrooms

The Oklahoma Capitol is seen in Oklahoma City Sept. 30, 2015. Oklahoma’s chief education officer announced June 27, 2024, that Oklahoma schools are required to incorporate the Bible and the Ten Commandments in their curriculums, effective immediately, just days after the state Supreme Court ruled a proposed Catholic charter school was unconstitutional. (CNS photo/Jon Herskovitz, Reuters)

by Gina Christian, OSV News

(OSV News) — Schools in Oklahoma are now required to have a Bible in their classrooms and to teach from it, according to a new memorandum issued by the state’s chief education officer.

The directive was unveiled during a June 27 state board of education regular meeting, with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters announcing that in “every school district” in Oklahoma, “every teacher, every teacher, every classroom. . . will have a Bible. . . and will be teaching from (it).”

Walters’ June 27 memorandum, a copy of which Walters’ office provided to OSV News, had as its subject line “Immediate Implementation of Foundational Texts in Curriculum,” and was sent to Oklahoma’s school superintendents, as well as to Oklahoma Gov. J. Kevin Stitt and several state lawmakers.

“Effective immediately, all Oklahoma schools are required to incorporate the Bible, which includes the Ten Commandments, as an instructional support into the curriculum across specified grade levels, e.g., grades 5 through 12,” said Walters in the document. “This directive is in alignment with the educational standards approved on or about May 2019, with which all districts must comply.”

He stated that “the Bible is one of the most historically significant books and a cornerstone of Western civilization, along with the Ten Commandments.”

As a result, he wrote, “they will be referenced as an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like, as well as for their substantial influence on our nation’s founders and the foundational principles of our Constitution.

“This is not merely an educational directive but a crucial step in ensuring our students grasp the core values and historical context of our country,” wrote Walters.

He also noted that his office “may supply teaching materials for the Bible, as permissible, to ensure uniformity in delivery.”

“Adherence to this mandate is compulsory,” Walters stated. “Further instructions for monitoring and reporting on this implementation for the 2024/25 school year will be forthcoming. Immediate and strict compliance is expected.”

Before announcing the memorandum at the June 27 meeting — which was livestreamed on the Oklahoma state board of education’s Facebook page — Walters told those present that his staff had been “looking at Oklahoma academic standards” with respect to inclusion of the Bible in school curricula.

“it’s crystal clear to us that in the Oklahoma academic standards under Title 70, (on) multiple occasions, 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 (and) to have an understanding of the basis of our legal system,” he said, adding that the Bible is “one of the most foundational documents used for the Constitution and the birth of our country.”

He also cited “major points in history. . . that reference the Bible. . . whether we’re talking about the Federalist Papers, Constitutional Convention arguments and Martin Luther King, Jr., who used it as a tremendous impetus for the Civil Rights Movement and tied many of those arguments back to the Bible.”

Prior to introducing the memorandum, Walters began the meeting with a prayer and noted that the gathering’s executive session would “discuss a teacher that admittedly was breaking state law to push inappropriate material on kids,” with removal of the individual’s teaching license under consideration.

“We have heard from parents all over the state that they do not want activist teachers in the classroom,” said Walters.

He also expressed support for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s efforts to establish the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual School, which would have been the nation’s first publicly funded religious charter school but did not survive a legal challenge in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

A June 25 ruling by the court found the initiative violated state laws, the state constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

Walters called the court’s decision “one of the worst,” saying the justices had ruled “against the parents of Oklahoma who have demanded more choices for their kids.

“We will continue to fight back against this,” he said, asserting that the court’s argument “is based on a myth, on a lie.

“You’re not going to find the separation of church and state in the Constitution,” said Walters. ” You’re not going to see the founders describe religion in this way, but what you are seeing is a court that lacks an understanding of the Constitution, and we are prepared to challenge this all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to make sure that religious liberty is protected in the state of Oklahoma and to make sure that parents have all options available to them.”

Both the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa declined to comment on Walter’s memorandum at this time.

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