Education
Oklahoma Official Wants Chaplains In Schools -- But Only 'Christian' Nationalists

Ryan Walters

Book-Banning 'Moms For Liberty' Remind Me Of 'Harper Valley PTA' (And '1984')

Visitors to Oklahoma’s State Schools Superintendent’s personal social media page will notice a post vowing to “ban Critical Race Theory, protect women’s sports, and fight for school choice,” a post linking to a Politico profile of him that reads, “Meet the state GOP official at the forefront of injecting religion into public schools,” a photo of him closely embracing a co-founder of the anti-government extremist group Moms for Liberty, and a video in which he declares, “Oklahoma is MAGA country.”

This is Ryan Walters, a far-right Republican Christian nationalist who is making a national name for himself.

“God has a place in public schools,” is how Politico described Walters’ focus.

Last week the Southern Poverty Law Center published an extensive profile of Walters, alleging “hateful rhetoric toward the LGBTQ+ community, calls to whitewash curriculum, efforts to ban books, and attempts to force Christian nationalist ideology into public school classrooms.”

“Walters is superintendent of public instruction, and public schools are supposed to serve students of all faiths, backgrounds and identities,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, told SPLC.

Walters is supporting new legislation in Oklahoma that follows in Texas’ footsteps: allowing untrained, unlicensed, uncertified, and unregulated religious chaplains and ministers to be hired as official school counselors.

“We heard a lot of talk about a lot of those support staffs, people such as counselors, having shortages,” Rep. Kevin West, a Republican, said, KFORreports. “I felt like this would be a good way to open that door to possibly get some help.”

Walters praised West, writing: “Allowing schools to have volunteer religious chaplains is a big help in giving students the support they need to be successful. Thank you to @KevinWestOKRep for being the House author for this bill. This passed the House yesterday and moves on to the Senate where @NathanDahm is leading the charge for this bill.”

As several Oklahoma news outlets report, there’s a wrinkle lawmakers may not have anticipated.

“With the Oklahoma House’s passage of Senate Bill 36, which permits the participation of uncertified chaplains in public schools, The Satanic Temple (TST) has announced its plans to have its Ministers in public schools in the Sooner State. If the bill advances through the Senate, this legislation will take effect on November 1, 2024. State Superintendent Ryan Walters, a vocal advocate for religious freedom in schools, has endorsed the legislation. The House approved SB 36 by a 54-37 vote on Wednesday,” a press release from The Satanic Temple reads. “The Satanic Temple, a federally recognized religious organization, has expressed its dedication to religious pluralism and community service.”

Walters responded on social media to The Satanic Temple’s announcement.

“Satanists are not welcome in Oklahoma schools, but they are welcome to go to hell,” he wrote.

Former Lincoln Project executive director Fred Wellman served up an equally colorful response.

“Hahahaha!!! You are an idiot,” Wellman wrote. “How did you not see this coming? Satanists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Pastafarians…come one come all! After all you’re not trying to establish Christianity as the state religion are you? We had a whole ass revolution about that. There are history books about it…oh…right. Not your thing. What a fool.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) served up a warning.

“The state of Oklahoma cannot discriminate against people or groups based on their religious beliefs,” the non-profit group wrote. “Walters’ hateful message shows, one again, that he only believes in religious freedom for Christians and that he is unfit to serve in public office.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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