Oklahoma’s state superintendent of public instruction upped the ante this week in his battle with atheist activists, proclaiming in a social media video that “people of faith will never be bullied.”
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State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ remarks were made after Prague Public Schools, a district in his state, halted daily prayer broadcasts over school-run loudspeakers after a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist group, KOKH-TV reported.
Rather than comply or agree with atheists’ demands, Walters took a defiant tone. He called the FFRF a “radical atheist group” and said his state has no plans of “bowing down to these bullies.”
“We’re going to continue to fight for religious liberty and religious freedom here in the state of Oklahoma,” Walters said, claiming the group has targeted children who wish to initiate prayer in the Prague Public Schools. “It’s outrageous. We have to take a stand for our students’ freedom of religion, their freedom to express their religious beliefs, no matter what those religious beliefs may be.”
People of faith will never be bullied. pic.twitter.com/ury7dSAY08
— Superintendent Ryan Walters (@RyanWaltersSupt) November 28, 2023
Walters wasn’t done there.
“We will never back down to your bullying antics,” he said to the FFRF and other groups like it. “We will not allow atheism to be the state-sponsored religion of our school system. … Leave our kids alone.”
Walters’ response came after a FFRF complaint reportedly led the Prague Elementary School to stop morning prayers purportedly shared during announcements on the loudspeaker.
“A concerned district community member informed FFRF that Prague Elementary School had been hosting daily prayers during its morning announcements,” the atheist group said in a statement. “The Prague Public Schools Facebook page regularly posted the photos and full names of young students who supposedly ‘asked if they could pray.'”
The FFRF argued “school sponsorship of prayers” is unconstitutional, proclaiming it is improper and illegal to broadcast prayer over a “school-controlled loudspeaker to a captive audience of students.”
The organization reached out to the school district and urged officials to halt the invocations — advice the FFRF said was “immediately heeded.” In fact, a lawyer for Prague Public Schools reportedly wrote back to the FFRF and supported the atheist group’s stance.
This is the reaction that seemingly sparked Walters’ video response to the FFRF — a reply that was then met with an open letter by the atheist group calling on Walters to “resign immediately.”
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation will not back down in the face of your grandstanding and (mis)use of your office to undermine Oklahoma’s secular educational system and otherwise impose your personal, pernicious Christian nationalist viewpoint on Oklahoma’s citizens,” the letter opens.
The letter goes on to share additional examples the FFRF believes illustrate violations of the First Amendment.
“Your disregard for your constitutional duties and your flagrant political posturing are a disgrace to your office,” the note concludes. “And we once again renew our call for you to resign immediately.”