Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has sent a letter to public school superintendents across the state vowing to defend religious freedom amid “veiled legal threats” over the distribution of Bibles on campus.
“Few things are as sacred and as fundamental to Oklahomans as the constitutional rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion,” Pruitt wrote Tuesday. “It is a challenging time in our country for those who believe in religious liberty. Our religious freedoms are under constant attack from a variety of groups who seek to undermine our constitutional rights and threaten our founding principles.”
Aaron Cooper, a spokesman, said Pruitt’s office is trying to determine the extent of contact between the Freedom From Religion Foundation and similar groups and Oklahoma school districts. From that information, legal training on the topic of religious freedom will be developed for public school officials, he said.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, or FFRF, responded Wednesday, sending Pruitt a letter saying they were "concerned about this misleading if not irresponsible advice."
"It is obviously far easier for an Oklahoma student to get a bible than literature criticizing the bible, which FFRF will seek to pass out in every public school forum that is opened under your offer. If the goal of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office is to allow public schools to be used to distribute atheist messages, then this is a brilliant idea," wrote foundation attorney Andrew Seidel. "FFRF prefers that public schools focus on education rather than serve as a venue for divisive religious debates.
"Your letter was either grossly misinformed on both the facts and law—indeed recklessly misinformed given that school districts might heed your advice and open themselves up to serious legal and financial liability—or it was a transparent attempt to pander to people’s religious sensibilities for political gain."
The funny thing about the First Amendment's freedom to worship clause is that whole Establishment Clause thing. The government cannot interfere in private worship, but neither can it advocate one religion over another. That's why the whole "American is a Christian country" is nonsense, because the Constitution spells out the fact that we're not. We have Christians, sure. But there's no official state religion, nor should there be in a representative democracy.
The state Attorney General wanting to distribute bibles on school campuses and using the power of the state of Oklahoma to do so is unconstitutional on its face.
I welcome this fight, frankly. Not even Scalia will tolerate this one.