Some are criticizing a piece of legislation in Oklahoma that would allow elective classes that include studying the Bible at public schools as a violation of the separation of church and state. Others want to have the option of this type of class.
The Mustang School District in Oklahoma gained national attention when officials first planned to offer an elective class on historical facts in the Bible. The class curriculum was to be partly written by Green Scholars Initiative, a group affiliated with the conservative Christian Green family that owns Hobby Lobby.
As a response to the debate, State Senator Kyle Loveless authored a bill for the Oklahoma State Senate to allow educators to teach elective classes based on religion in public schools without fear of lawsuits.
Although the class planned to emphasize a historical understanding of the Bible, Loveless said he thinks people immediately wanted to undermine the class because of the religious sentiments.
“Before the curriculum was even finalized, the folks that were against it were already threatening lawsuits,” Loveless said.
While officials at the Mustang High School District discussed including the elective in December, First Amendment right groups took issue with the class.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, respective Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.- based organizations, partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to file a freedom of information request to see how invested officials were to the proposed course.
After a second records request, school officials made the decision to not offer the course.
Gregory Lipper, a senior litigation counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he thinks there are serious constitutional issues with presenting events in the Bible as historical facts.
“That may be perfectly appropriate for Sunday school, but that’s completely inappropriate for the public schools,” Lipper said.
Mustang school officials projected around 30 students originally wanted to take the course, but 180 students signed up before it was ultimately scrapped.
“I think you should have the option to (take the class) if you want to,” said student Krystin Hurst. “If you wanted to do Bible study and there was an interest for you, then I don’t see why you couldn’t do it.”