Tag: oklahoma
Oklahoma Official Wants Chaplains In Schools -- But Only 'Christian' Nationalists

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

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.

Kevin Stitt

Oklahoma's Stitt Becomes First Governor To Endorse DeSantis

Two weeks after declaring a 2024 presidential bid, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis received his first gubernatorial endorsement Saturday, CNN reports.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, also a Republican, backed the 2024 hopeful in a statement one day after DeSantis defended former President Donald Trump following his federal indictment.

According to CNN, leading up to DeSantis' Tulsa, Oklahoma visit on Saturday, Stitt insisted DeSantis is "the right guy to beat Biden for the next eight years."

Stitt emphasized, "As a proven leader, DeSantis has boldly delivered results for the people of Florida that laid the groundwork for a booming economy, an education system focused on student outcomes, and better infrastructure for working families," before saying he believes DeSantis can "deliver these same results all across America."

Additionally, the Oklahoma leader gave a nod to DeSantis' move to "ban mask mandates" in Florida at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, "As fellow Governors during COVID, DeSantis did not surrender states' rights and individual liberties over to groupthink."

In January, the 2024 hopeful chose to ban COVID protections despite Florida ranking "eighth in total coronavirus cases per capita and thirteenth in total coronavirus deaths per capita."

Politico reported in April, under DeSantis' leadership, the state's surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, "personally altered a state-driven study about COVID-19 vaccines" in 2022 "to suggest that some doses pose a significantly higher health risk for young men than had been established by the broader medical community, according to a newly obtained document."

CNN reports, "Stitt is among DeSantis' highest-profile endorsements to date," in addition to Reps Bob Good (R-VA), Laurel Lee (R-FL), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Chip Roy (R-TX).

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Senator Rob Stanridge

GOP Lawmaker Hawks Book Banning Bill With Huge Fines For Librarians

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

An Oklahoma state senator is pushing for two bills that would give parents the power to remove any book in a public school library they find objectionable. Meaning any book mentioning sex or the “study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity,“ or books “that are of a sexual nature.”

Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge, who is championing Senate Bill 1142, says it addresses the “indoctrination in Oklahoma schools.”

“Our education system is not the place to teach moral lessons that should instead be left up to parents and families. Unfortunately, however, more and more schools are trying to indoctrinate students by exposing them to gender, sexual, and racial identity curriculums and courses. My bills will ensure these types of lessons stay at home and out of the classroom,” Standridge said in a statement.

Standridge seems to have his ire particularly focused on books in the LGBTQ+ genre. Some titles include: Trans Teen Survival Guide, Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities, A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, and The Art of Drag.

SB-1142 will give any parent the right to have a book removed within 30 days if they find it offensive. If a librarian chooses not to remove the book, they can be fired and will be unable to work for any public school for two years, McAlester News-Capital reports. Parents can also receive “monetary damages including a minimum of $10,000 per day” from school districts refusing to remove the book as demanded.

Standridge claims that families have been denouncing the sexual content of books on school library book shelves for years.

“I just think that those [books] are overly sexualized,” Standridge told the McAlester News-Capital. “I think parents and grandparents, guardians should have a say on whether their kids are exposed to those books.” He added: “At Barnes and Noble there is a section dedicated to those sexual lifestyles but that is in another part of the bookstore.”

Critics of SB-1142 say it’s simply unconstitutional and worry that banning books that uplift and support the LGBTQ+ community could have a dangerous and potentially deadly outcome.

“Studies have shown that having safe, affirming adults and peers in their life can actually reduce suicide rates among 2SLGBTQ+ students,” Laura Lang, CEO of Thrive OKC, tells Newson6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “If we limit the information given to them in this setting then we know that teens will just turn to peers or the internet where porn and predators are rampant for answers to their questions.”

Under the senator’s second proposed bill, Senate Bill 1141, public universities in Oklahoma would be prohibited from requiring students to enroll in courses “addressing any form of gender, sexual, or racial diversity, equality, or inclusion curriculum,” which fall outside of the requirements for their major.

“We are blessed in America that every citizen has access to free public education, and then has the freedom to pursue a higher education if they choose. The purpose of our common education system is to teach students about math, history, science and other core areas of learning—all of which are further expanded on in college as students pursue their fields of interest,” Standridge said in a statement.

According to the American Library Associations (ALA), the calls for book-banning have been unparalleled of late. Parents across the nation have set their targets on books they allege contain “sexually explicit” content from authors such as Toni Morrison and Alison Bechdel.

These are parents like Virginia Beach at-large school board member Victoria Manning—aka book-banning Karen, aka nonreading pro-censorship Karen -- who successfully got Gender Queer “permanently removed from shelves,” according to Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence.

“It’s a volume of challenges I’ve never seen in my time at the ALA – the last 20 years. We’ve never had a time when we’ve gotten four or five reports a day for days on end, sometimes as many as eight in a day,” ALA Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone tells The Guardian. “Social media is amplifying local challenges and they’re going viral, but we’ve also been observing a number of organizations activating local members to go to school board meetings and challenge books. We’re seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books dealing with LGBTQIA themes and books dealing with racism.”

New Oklahoma Bill: Men Must Give Permission For Abortions

New Oklahoma Bill: Men Must Give Permission For Abortions

IMAGE: Protesters hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on the morning the court takes up a major abortion case focusing on whether a Texas law that imposes strict regulations on abortion doctors and clinic buildings interferes with the constitutional right of a woman to end her pregnancy, in Washington March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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