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OCCJ Statement 07.02.24

The Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice (OCCJ) inspires and equips Oklahomans to overcome bias, bigotry, and oppression. As an organization dedicated to making Oklahoma a more inclusive, just, and hospitable place for all, OCCJ opposes Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters requirement to incorporate the Bible into school curriculum and classrooms. 

Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters' edict that all public schools teach the Bible is both shortsighted and disrespectful of the rich diversity, both religious and non-religious, within our schools. This dictate undermines the constitutional principles of religious freedom, instead fostering religious favoritism (including favoritism of religion over non-religion) and indoctrination. It treads on parental rights over the religious life of their children. Teaching a particular religion, as opposed to teaching about religion, crosses an important line.   

Which Bible does Superintendent Walters propose be the basis for this teaching? What about other religious texts—the Qur’an, Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, the Guru Granth Sahib, the Tanakh, the Tao Te Ching, the Tripitaka, and others? These texts, too, have profoundly influenced history and culture throughout the world. If we include the Bible but exclude other religious texts, we deny students a comprehensive education. 

Teaching about various religious texts and traditions fosters empathy, understanding, and mutual respect among students from diverse backgrounds. It equips them with the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to navigate an increasingly interconnected world. Even this inclusive approach, however, must prize equity and respect among various belief systems. Favoring one over others as a matter of curriculum violates bedrock principles of freedom of religion and freedom from religion. 

The inclusion of religious texts in public education must be approached with sensitivity, inclusiveness, and a commitment to equality. By acknowledging our diverse range of religious backgrounds and teachings, we honor the pluralistic nature of our society and uphold the principles of equality and respect for all. Anything less is an affront to the values of fairness and justice that our educational system should embody.


Phil Armstrong, President & CEO, OCCJ 

Dr. Mujeeb Cheema, Circle of Advisors Member, Masjid Al-Salam of Islamic Society of Tulsa 

Rev. Dr. W. Lee Domenick, Board Member, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church of Tulsa 

Rabbi Dan S. Kaiman, Board Member, Principal Rabbi of The Synagogue Congregation B’Nai Emunah 

Dr. Gary Peluso-Verdend, Board Member, President Emeritus Phillips Theological Seminary, Theologian in Residence, Boston Av United Methodist Church, Tulsa 

Rabbi Charles Sherman, Circle of Advisors Member, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel