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Skipping school for church? Bill gives Oklahoma students options

Posted at 6:53 PM, May 16, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — The battle over religion and schools in the Sooner state is taking a new form.

A new bill proposes excusing students from classes to attend religious courses. The bill clarifies an already existing law.

State Representative Clay Staires (R-Skiatook) wroteHouse Bill 1425. Tulsa parent Meegan Clark supports it.

"I think we absolutely need to get God back into school and be giving teaching opportunities for religion," said Clark.

She was eating lunch with her daughter. She said she believes this bill is no different than other school activities.

"I don’t feel like it’s any different than having satanic clubs for after-school programs or dungeons and dragons or anything that omits Jesus or religion of any kind from them. So I feel it's equal," said Clark.

2 News went in-depth to see what the bill entails and what it means for schools.

The bill allows schools to excuse students for a maximum of three class periods a week to attend a religious course.

"Right now, it is legal for it to happen in Oklahoma. But nobody knows how to do it, and so you can do it, and you can do it wrong, and next thing you know, you're up for lawsuits and stuff like that," said Staires.

The bill breaks down the requirements:

  • School leadership determines the instruction
  • Schools decide how frequently and when students will be allowed off campus
  • No taxpayer dollars would be used for funding
  • The organization needs to provide the transportation to avoid school funding
  • Schools can offer the courses to all age groups
  • Students are required to have their parent's permission before attending the classes

"The vast majority of states that are doing this is happening with young kids, and that's why there needs to be a bus that transports them from place to place because you know they're not driving themselves," said Clark.
The bill specifically states all denominations are welcome to teach students. Staires said all religious organizations will be vetted before beginning the courses.

Representative Staires said the bill was approved in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and sent to the State Senate. The bill was then amended and approved by the Senate.

Before going to the governor's desk, the amended version goes back to the House for final approval.

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