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State Superintendent Ryan Walters possibly 'ripe' for lawsuit after promoting Biblical instruction

Superintendent Ryan Walters speaks in a video published May 1, 2023
Ryan Walters
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Superintendent Ryan Walters speaks in a video published May 1, 2023

State Superintendent Ryan Walters is drawing attention for saying religion should be taught in schools.

In a video earlier this month, Walters said the Bible should be taught with the U.S. Constitution and the Federalist Papers.

“So that our kids understand our history and how our government was put together, those core fundamental principles that have made us the greatest country in the history of the world,” said Walters in the video published May 1.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder and co-president of the nonprofit Freedom from Religion Foundation, said Walters is repeating national conservative talking points as he advocates for the banning of some books but not others.

“There’s a template, and a playlist, and they’re using it. It’s unprecedented. We’ve even seen proposals that we’re going to defund our public libraries. This is all about dumbing down our nation, discouraging children from free access to information, much less reading,” said Gaylor.

Walters, who frequently accuses schools of allowing pornography, has recently advocated for the review of 190 books that address LGBTQ issues. The so-called Rainbow Book List is promoted by the American Library Association.

Gaylor’s organization sent a letter to Walters on May 11, objecting that the Bible is full of sexualized content, including rape and incest. FFRF said the Bible is more potent than anything Walters has challenged.

“The bible historically is doubtless the single-most weaponized piece of writing on the planet, responsible for unjust wars, genocide, anti-semitism, violent extremism, subjugation of women and pervasive racism,” wrote FFRF.

Gaylor said FFRF may consider a lawsuit depending on what happens.

“This one would be ripe for us to take because he’s not only banning books and not banning the Bible, he’s actually directing children to the Bible, and that’s unconstitutional,” said Gaylor.

In a statement, Walters said the founding fathers used the Bible as inspiration and he doesn't plan on relenting.

"One cannot rewrite history and force liberal extremism under the guise of religious freedom. I will continue to defend our faith while it’s under attack by woke radicals," said Walters.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.