House Bill 2200, giving students the right to express their religious viewpoints in school, easily passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, but not without heavy debate Thursday morning on the House floor.
"(The bill) is trying to tell school administrators you don't know how to protect students' rights," said Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum. "You don't need a law. Faith is a verb."
But Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, said the bill - also known as titled the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act - does not change any existing law.
"We're talking about students expressing their viewpoints," Trebilcock said. "This is stopping schools from censuring constitutionally protected free speech."
The bill states a school district shall treat the voluntary expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats the voluntary expression by a student of a secular or other viewpoint. It may not discriminate against a student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by that student on an otherwise permissible subject.
In other words, students who want to tell a class studying evolution that they believe in creationism instead have the right to do so without being punished by the teacher, school or district.
Written by Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, the bill passed overwhelmingly, 71 to 21. It now heads over to the state Senate. -Scott Cooper