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Heated rally in front of TPS Education Center over Prayer in School

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jul 21, 2023

TULSA, Okla. — A large crowd gathered in front of the Tulsa Public Schools’ Education Service Center Friday for a rally designed to “defend religious freedom.”

It was prompted by a prayer given by Tulsa school board member L’Elena Ashley during a graduation ceremony this spring. In a letter, TPS school board president Stacey Wooley told Ashley they had received many complaints and reminded her that prayer in school is unconstitutional.

Ashley took the issue public and people complained in her favor as well, spurring more debate on the issue, including this rally hosted by Tulsa County Republicans. State Superintendent Ryan Walters showed up as a guest speaker.

School-sponsored prayer in school has been ruled unconstitutional since 1962. The group hosting the rally does not want to hear that and showed support for Ashley.

Between protestors and supporters, chants and yells got so loud that most in the crowd were unable to hear the speakers.

Ashley started off the afternoon with a prayer, with an interruption from a bullhorn. Protestors called for a rabbi in attendance to get to pray as well. That didn’t happen.

“Let him pray!” the crowd chanted.

“I served in Afghanistan twice, just to come back within a few years of me being discharged and now I have to fear religious fascism has taken over our government,” said one protestor.

2News Anchor Erin Christy asked State Senator Dana Prieto if he attempted to have a discussion with Tulsa Public Schools’ Superintendent Doctor Deborah Gist or the TPS Board before initiating a rally. He said it was pointless.

Superintendent Walters also made it clear conflict resolution was not of interest to them in this case.

“We’ve seen what Dr. Gist’s reaction was and that was to attack a board member, send an email, which fundamentally misunderstands religious freedom and religious liberties and instead attacks a board member,” said Walters. “It’s outrageous.”

There did not appear to be a specific call to action or purpose for the event, other than to display beliefs.

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