OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After state leaders announced a plan to create a faith-based committee to establish guidance for school prayers, dozens of faith leaders are speaking out against the move.
Last month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters said that he was creating a faith-based committee that was designed to establish guidance for students that want to practice their religious worship at school.
Walters said the move came after he received a letter from six Christian-based organizations that expressed concerns about a lack of Christian influence in Oklahoma’s education.
“Under your leadership, there can be a positive impact on our families and in our classrooms. We request that you form an advisory group to study the issue of allowing corporate prayer and the acknowledgement of God in our classrooms and make recommendations,” the letter to Walters read.
The Superintendent did not commit to advocating for prayer in schools.
“What I would like to do is get a group together – faith leaders, community leaders – and let them analyze it and let them come to their own conclusions about what do we need to do for our kids,” said Walters in February.
Now, dozens of faith and community leaders are speaking out against the move.
The Oklahoma Faith Network said that the separation of church and state is “a vital part of our country’s identity,” adding that it is important to allow individuals to choose their own religious life.
“Oklahoma is a beautiful and diverse state, filled with a multitude of religious and spiritual practices, and through this diversity, we are honored to live with an eye towards tolerance, acceptance, and understanding of our neighbor in ways we would not if we were all of the same faith. Any proposal to insert corporate prayer into public schools is living outside of the respect for ALL Oklahomans we are called to carry, and would place a great amount of discomfort and influence on students who are not of the Christian faith,” the letter read.
The group said that prayer is already allowed freely in public schools, “as long as it is not led by those in an authoritative position.”
As a result, the group says the change isn’t necessary “other than to allow those with influence to lead prayer.”
The group said that most public prayers are Christian in nature, and they want young children to feel seen and heard for who they are by those in charge.
“We ask that you remember the students under your care that are not Christian, and how it feels to have your personal religion unseen, unvalued, and unrecognized. It is not a positive experience for any child to experience in their learning environment, which should be safe and free of such influence,” the letter read.
The letter was signed by more than 70 faith leaders representing Methodist, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Nazarene, Christian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Buddhist, and Unitarian faiths.