A Muslim advocacy group on Wednesday asked a state lawmaker to drop a bill on elective religious education courses.
Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, is the author of Senate Bill 48.
“A school district and its employees and agents shall incur no liability as a result of providing an elective course in the objective study of religion or the Bible,” the bill states.
“We are all for supporting anything that teaches diversity or reflects the teaching of diversity in our society, whether cultural or religious,” said Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “The problem with this bill is that it seems that it is only going to support Christianity and the Bible and only one form of the Bible.”
Soltani asked who gets to decide what is the “objective study of religion.”
“Is Satanism a religion?” he said. “Yes, according to some. To others, of course it is not a religion. It opens the doors for so many questions and concerns in addition to just the mere fact it could be against the First Amendment if not administered properly.”
Veronica Laizure, civil rights director for the Muslim group, said the bill is unconstitutional.
“The state may not endorse one religion over all others and promote its views in public school classes, regardless of whether attendance is compelled or not,” she said.
Soltani said his organization and possibly other civil rights groups may file a legal challenge to the measure if it becomes law.
Loveless said he believes the measure is constitutional.
He also questioned why CAIR did not contact him directly with its concerns before issuing a news release. He said he does not plan to back down from the measure.
Loveless said Mustang Public Schools had wanted to offer such a course, and his measure would allow the district to do so without becoming fearful of being sued.
“I don’t think it’s opening a can of worms,” he said. “Specifically, it’s the school board’s decision. We are talking about the historical impact of the best seller in the history of the world, the Bible.”
The class would not be a Sunday school faith-based lesson, he said.