The FFRF Action Fund is censuring the Oklahoma sponsor of a bill to require all public classrooms to display the Ten Commandments, while commending another state legislator for speaking out against the theocratic measure.
Oklahoma state Rep. Jim Olsen is being named the Action Fund’s first 2024 “Theocrat of the Week” for calling “The Ten Commandments … one of the foundations of our nation,” while state Rep. Mickey Dollens is receiving its “Secularist of the Week” plaudit for his defense against Christian nationalist politics.
Olsen, representing Oklahoma’s 2nd district, introduced HB 2962 late last year, which would require all public school classrooms in the state to showcase the Ten Commandments. A copy of the controversial bill considered last year by the Texas Legislature dictates that “every public school shall display in a conspicuous place in each classroom of the school a durable poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments.” The display would need to be visible from all positions in the classroom, be at least 16 inches wide and 20 inches tall and include a specific version of the Ten Commandments — forcing schools not only to display a list of religious commandments, but also to pick a side on an ancient theological debate.
A Ten Commandments monument erected on Oklahoma Capitol grounds was a point of contention for years before the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared the structure unconstitutional in 2015. The court declared that the monument violated the state Constitution, which bans the use of public property to promote religion.
Texas’ attempt to enact the bill prototype last year was met with significant backlash and did not become law in 2023.
Olsen recently defeated a bill that would exempt students with disabilities from corporal punishment by citing bible verses such as Proverbs 12:24 (“Spare the rod, spoil the child”).
Olsen is a well-known ally of Oklahoma state Superintendent Ryan Walters (dubbed the Action Fund’s 2023 “Theocrat of the Year”), who has a long history of attempting to inject Christianity into the state school system.
Thankfully, we have legislators who fight against such Christian nationalist attacks and stand up for the separation of church and state. In this instance, Dollens, representing Oklahoma’s 93rd district, is championing secular values. He tweeted, “State-endorsed religious indoctrination is unconstitutional, idolatrous, violates parents’ rights, and contradicts the teachings of the deity he claims to worship.”
Dollens continued, “Christian Nationalist politicians believe they have divine authority to enact laws based on their interpretation of the Bible, forcing their religious beliefs on society. This is unconstitutional, exclusionary and dangerous. By endorsing a state-sanctioned religion, they undermine the foundational principle of religious freedom which the United States was built upon.”
Dollens effectively outlines the core arguments against the bill and the Christian nationalists behind it. In an interview with KOKH FOX 25, he said, “Chrisitan nationalists, they believe that that religious morality should be imposed on all of society, and they truly believe they’re divinely appointed to mandate and force their religious beliefs. I represent South Oklahoma City. There are many different traditions and faiths and lack thereof, and my job as a representative is to use my platform to be all of their voices.”
Dollens, previously named “Secularist of the Week” in May 2023 for promoting sufficient funding for public schools, is an exemplary advocate of protecting public schools in a state overrun with theocrats. FFRF Action Fund commends him and will continue to work to protect the rights of all Oklahoma students and shield them from overt indoctrination attempts.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.