OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The attorney general of Oklahoma is vowing to protect Bible distributions at public schools after a prominent atheist activist organization sent letters throughout the state in an effort to stop the activity.
As previously reported, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to 26 Oklahoma school districts in February after it was made aware that Jamison Faught, son of Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee), had distributed Bibles with Gideon International to schools throughout the state.
“It is unconstitutional for public school districts to permit the distribution of Bibles as part of the public school day,” the letter, written by Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, reads. “Courts have uniformly held that the distribution of bibles to students at public schools is prohibited.”
The correspondence also likened Gideon International to child predators in sharing the Scriptures with children.
“Parents carefully instruct their children not to accept any gifts from strangers. The Gideon practice of distributing bibles to schoolchildren teaches them to ignore that guidance,” Seidel stated. “This predatory conduct is inappropriate and should raise many red flags.”
He asked that districts prohibit Bible distributions from taking place again on public school grounds.
But Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sent a letter to districts throughout the state on Tuesday urging superintendents not to give in to the complaint nor to be swayed by “veiled legal threats.”
“Few things are as sacred and as fundamental to Oklahomans as the constitutional rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion,” he wrote. “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 said that it is not unlawful for religious material to be made available to students on campus despite FFRF’s claims.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed lawsuits around the country to aggressively advance its agenda,” he stated. “The group has contacted more than one Oklahoma school with misrepresentations regarding the law, including the false categorical assertion that the law prohibits distribution of religious literature in public schools.”
He advised school districts to enact policies that are neutral in allowing for equal access in the free exercise of religion and “to ensure the maximum level of freedom for the citizens of this state.”
Rep. Faught is also supportive of the right of private citizens to distribute religious literature, and doesn’t believe that officials should back down for the atheist organization, which he says uses “scare tactics.”
“Passing out the scriptures—you certainly can’t be blamed for that,” he told the Associated Press in February. “The great thing about Oklahoma is that I’ve been at a lot of school activities where—at least in our area—we still pray before football games. Some people pray before meetings and certainly honor our God-given rights.”
Jamison Faught told the New American that student receipt of the Bibles is completely voluntary.
“We don’t force Bibles on anybody. We simply ask if anyone would like them,” he said.
Photo: Gage Skidmore