Oklahoma Superintendent Orders Bible Education in All Schools, Requires a Copy in Every Classroom

By: Georgia | Published: Jun 28, 2024

Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters has issued a directive that all public schools must include the Bible in their curriculum from grades 5 through 12. This new requirement was announced last Thursday, making it mandatory for every classroom to have a copy of the Bible. 

Walters stated, “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.”

Strict Compliance Required

In his announcement, Superintendent Ryan Walters emphasized the need for schools to comply strictly and immediately with the new mandate. 

A young boy holds a Bible close to his face, eyes closed, in a dimly lit room with Christmas lights in the background

Source: David Beale/Unsplash

He highlighted the urgency of incorporating the Bible into school curricula, reflecting his commitment to see this change implemented without delay. The directive is clear in its expectations for immediate action from all involved educational institutions.


Cultural Significance of the Bible

Walters justified the mandate by emphasizing the cultural and historical importance of the Bible. He argued that understanding the Bible is essential for students to fully grasp the foundational aspects of American society. 

A closed Holy Bible rests on a wooden surface surrounded by pale pink tulips, presenting a serene and thoughtful setting

Source: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

Walters explained, “The Bible is an indispensable historical and cultural touchstone. Without basic knowledge of it, Oklahoma students are unable to properly contextualize the foundation of our nation which is why Oklahoma educational standards provide for its instruction.”

Legal Backing and Public Reaction

Phil Bacharach, a spokesperson for the state Attorney General, stated that Oklahoma law already allows the presence of Bibles in classrooms and their use in instruction.

An old, open Bible with yellowed pages and visible wear

Source: Pierre Baman/Unsplash

However, the expansion of this to a teaching requirement has elicited strong reactions and raised questions about its constitutional validity.

Constitutional Concerns

The directive has been criticized as a potential violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from establishing a religion. 

A diverse group of young students engaged in classroom activities with papers and colored pencils on their desks

Source: CDC/Unsplash

Adam Soltani from the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the order, saying, “We adamantly oppose any requirements that religion be forcefully taught or required as a part of lesson plans in public schools, in Oklahoma, or anywhere else in the country.”

Accusations of Christian Nationalism

Critics have labeled the move as an act of Christian Nationalism. Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, argued that Walters is misusing his public office to impose his personal religious beliefs.

A large Christian cross stands against a cloudy blue sky, symbolizing faith and religion in a vast natural setting

Source: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

She stated, “Public schools are not Sunday schools. This is textbook Christian Nationalism: Walters is abusing the power of his public office to impose his religious beliefs on everyone else’s children. Not on our watch.”


Similar Moves in Louisiana

The policy in Oklahoma reflects a similar trend in Louisiana, where a new law mandates that all public K-12 classrooms and state-funded universities display a poster-sized version of the Ten Commandments. 

A large roadside billboard displaying the Ten Commandments against a foggy rural landscape at dawn

Source: Sean Foster/Unsplash

This indicates a regional shift toward more overt religious displays in public education settings.


Walters' Controversial Tenure

Since his election in 2022, Superintendent Walters has been a contentious figure, known for his strong opposition to what he terms “woke ideology” and his efforts to remove certain books from school libraries. 

State Superintendent Ryan Walters speaking at a podium, surrounded by microphones and news media in a public hall

Source: RyanWaltersSupt/X

His policies have frequently sparked debate and legal challenges.


Legal Setbacks

The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently ruled against Walters’ attempt to allow the state Board of Education to decide which books should be available in public school libraries.

A grand courtroom with dark wood paneling, ornate golden details, and green velvet curtains

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This reaffirms the authority of local school boards in such matters.


Ongoing Book Bans

Further stirring controversy, the state Board of Education, under Walters’ leadership, recommended removing books like ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘The Glass Castle’ from school libraries, citing new rules that ban books containing adult content. 

A library table cluttered with stacks of books and papers

Source: Jason Leung/Unsplash

This has led to legal confrontations with local districts.


Clash Over Federal Policies

Walters has also instructed schools to disregard new federal policies promoting LGBTQ rights, framing these changes as a threat to traditional gender roles and safety. 

A pair of hands with fingers painted with the letters "LGBTQIAH" in rainbow colors

Source: Alexander Grey/Unsplash

He criticized President Biden’s Title IX changes, claiming, “In Oklahoma, we don’t bend to the senseless will of Biden and his posse eradicating women’s rights and putting women in danger.”


The Broader Impact of Walters' Policies

The education policies under Ryan Walters continue to generate significant debate and scrutiny. 

Close-up of a person holding an old, worn Holy Bible open

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The long-term effects of these changes, both legally and educationally, remain to be seen as Oklahoma navigates these contentious new educational standards.