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Freedom from Religion Foundation forces Putnam City School District to take down Bible scripture

Autor: Oklahoma City Sentinel

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has nosed its way into Oklahoma classrooms in the Putnam City Public Schools after a concerned Putnam City Schools employee reported the existence of a display that contained Bible scripture from the book of Ephesians that reads, “Now all glory to God, who is able through HIS might power at work within us to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine.” 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is based in Madison Wisconsin the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) is a nonprofit organization in the United States that advocates for the separation of church and state and works to protect the constitutional principle of the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from establishing or endorsing any religion. The FFRF focuses on legal advocacy, education, and outreach to promote secularism and protect the rights of non-religious individuals. Some of the activities and initiatives undertaken by the FFRF includes legal challenges against government actions or policies that violate the Establishment Clause, such as the display of religous symbols on public property or the promotion of religious activities in public schools. 

The group wrote a letter dated March 15,2024, to Putnam City Superintendent Fred Rhodes in which the group’s staff attorney Chris Line asked the district to remove the display. They could have written a one-word response “No and then prepared for litigation. Line wrote to them in summary that it has been settled that public schools may not show favoritism toward or coerce or participation in religion. 

However, Putnam City School District complied with the group’s request. Critics of the group contend that the groups stand on the separation of church and state can and is often seen as hostile towards religion and aimed at eradicating religion from public life. The district does not want to comment about the situation. 

There are many different viewpoints to consider if one wishes to consider however in most cases to deflect controversy schools mostly quickly comply with a group’s request. It should be noted that while The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a nonprofit it is also an activist organization. In fact, the U.S. Constitution has a free exercise clause that guarantees the individuals rights to freely practice their religion without government interference. It protects people from discrimination or persecution based on their religious belief and they have the freedom to worship as they choose. 

The establishment clause has nothing to do with posting quotes from a Christian bible but in fact prohibits the establishment of a national religion. The idea the founders of the nation had when writing that was to ensure that people had the right to go to church, any church they wanted to. They didn’t have that freedom in England but in the U.S. they did. 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

First Amendment: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause forbids Congress from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.1 The general framework for the Supreme Court’s Free Exercise jurisprudence was largely established in the 1940 case Cantwell v. Connecticut, which also gave the Supreme Court the opportunity to apply the Free Exercise Clause to the states.2 In Cantwell, the Court explained that the Religion Clauses embrace[ ] two concepts, —freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute but, in the nature of things, the second cannot be.3 Starting with the first freedom, as explored in more detail in a subsequent essay,4 the Free Exercise Clause categorically prohibits government from regulating, prohibiting, or rewarding religious beliefs as such.5.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation also asked Prague Schools to halt student led prayer. This resulted in a public dispute between the foundation and the state superintendent of schools, Ryan Walters, who published a video on social media in which he expressed his disapproval of the organization’s conduct. In addition to stating that “we are going to continue to battle for religious liberty and religious freedom here in the state of Oklahoma,” he stated that the Prague district had retreated from its opposition to “a radical atheist group.” As a reaction, the foundation demanded that Walters step down from his position.

The state of Oklahoma has previously passed legislation mandating that schools observe a daily moment of quiet, during which pupils are permitted to engage in prayer on their own volition. Nevertheless, following the controversy that occurred in Prague, Walters successfully pushed through the Oklahoma State Board of Education an administrative rule that would mandate that all of Oklahoma’s more than 500 school districts “implement a policy that enables those students and instructors who desire to do so to engage in voluntary prayer.” If it is not determined that the district is in compliance, then the district’s accreditation would be in jeopardy.

Only after receiving approval from both the Oklahoma Legislature and Governor Kevin Stitt will that regulation be considered permanent. The proposed rule changes that have been recommended by the state Board of Education have not yet been put to a vote by the Legislature during the current session.

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