Oklahoma bill would allow students more religious freedom in public schools

Oklahoma state representative Larry Glenn was one of 13 out of 92 representatives who voted against the Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act – Oklahoma House Bill 1940. The bill seeks to allow public school students to express religious viewpoints and organize prayer groups.

“The First Amendment, that’s one thing you can’t do, is have a school promoting a religion,” says Representative Glenn. “It really didn’t change much from what they could already do. It actually opens it up for one religion may want to start promoting their religion and that’s what we’re against.”

The house bill is now headed to the state senate, where Representative Glenn says he is sure it will pass, but the superintendent of one area school isn’t sure they will see any change if it does.

“We already have policy in place to provide an open forum for our students,” says the Wyandotte Schools Superintendent Troy Gray. “We really don’t regulate as far as if they would give a speech, or anything, and I know when you do that you take a risk but we think the students have a right to express their opinions and beliefs.”

According to Representative Glenn during debate on the bill one concern brought up was the possibility of more lawsuits against schools.

But that is something Superintendent Gray isn’t concerned about in Wyandotte, saying they already allow the voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint by a student.

“As long as we’re fair and we provide opportunities, whether it be for facilities or meetings, or what ever for all entities then we stay in compliance with the law,” says Superintendent Gray.

Representative Glenn says he voted against it because there are other things the House could spend more time on.

“There’s a lot of bills that are run because they look really good in a re-election campaign,” Representative Glenn says.

Supporters of the bill say it gives more freedom to what schools allow on their campuses.

Opponents from the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union say the proposed law is nothing more than a political stunt.