State Journal

‘Viewpoints’ Clash On Law Protecting Religious Beliefs

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

There’s nothing like legislation on the issue of religious tolerance to test the limits of tolerance.

The latest case in point: Oklahoma’s newly enacted Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, a statute supporters say is simply aimed at making sure that educators have clear rules to guide them when students bring up religion in the course of schoolwork or classroom discussions.

“Schools and administrators don’t want to get sued by the [American Civil Liberties Union], so that at times they’re squelching the religious expression of students,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Sally Kern, a Republican.

But opponents find some implications of the legislation—now awaiting the signature of Democratic Gov. Brad Henry—to be intolerable.

“This bill opens up the door for extreme points of view,” said Rep. Ed Cannaday, a Democrat, who said that it has “the potential for harm.”

For example, he said, the bill might protect inflammatory remarks akin to those by the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., the Chicago minister and former pastor to Sen. Barack Obama, which have caused a furor in the Illinois Democrat’s presidential campaign.

Rep. Kern disagreed, saying that “the main goal [of this bill] is to alleviate confusion about what school administrators and teachers can and cannot do.”

And she said that such conflicts rarely come up anyway in Oklahoma, “because we’re a conservative state.”

The bill’s language is largely taken from a similar religious-antidiscrimination bill that was signed into law in Texas last year. ("Texas ‘Religious Viewpoints’ Law Draws Grumbles," Oct. 3, 2007.)

It states that students may not be prohibited from expressing “their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments,” so long as the students’ statements pertain to the classroom material.

It also says students are free to organize and assemble in religious activities at their schools, with the equivalent protection under law that is given to any other extracurricular organization.

Gov. Henry has yet to say whether he will sign the measure.

Vol. 27, Issue 39, Page 15

Published in Print: June 4, 2008, as ‘Viewpoints’ Clash On Law Protecting Religious Beliefs
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >