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May 11, 2005

Oklahoma school adopts religious protection policy

From the Baptist Press:

Five months to the day after a nativity scene was disallowed in a fifth grade holiday program at an Oklahoma elementary school, the school system's board of directors unanimously approved a religious liberty policy May 9 that declares “the proper role of religion in the public school curriculum is academic and not devotional.”

Approval of the policy by the Mustang Public Schools board of directors was hailed by the central figure in the controversy which rocked this suburb of Oklahoma City as “wonderful.” Superintendent Karl Springer banned a nativity scene from Lakehoma Elementary School's annual holiday play Dec. 9, basing his decision on a legal opinion issued by the school system’s legal counsel, who cited separation of church and state arguments.

“I think this document is wonderful,” Springer told a small crowd which gathered for the board meeting. “If we had had this policy in place, we would not have had any issue come up in December. It provides us with an opportunity to be able to teach about religion, and that makes all the difference.”

Two of the paragraphs in the new policy reads:

“Public schools may neither instill nor inhibit religion. They must be places where religion and religious conviction are treated with fairness and respect. Mustang Public Schools uphold the First Amendment by protecting the religious liberty rights of students of all faiths or no faith.

“The proper role of religion in the public school curriculum is academic and not devotional. Mustang Public Schools strives to advance the students’ knowledge and appreciation of the role that religion has played in all aspects of human history and development.”

While the nativity scene was removed from the Christmas program references to Kwaanza, Hanukkah and secular holiday rituals were allowed. Citizen were so angered by the blatant discrimination that two bond issues were defeated, leaving the school without the million of dollars the bonds would have provided.

Posted by Danny Carlton at May 11, 2005 09:14 AM

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