Adobe Stock | Inset: @RyanWaltersSupt / X

Pending Oklahoma legislation is testing the limits of religious freedom as The Satanic Temple (TST) vows to place its chaplains in public schools. Senate Bill 36 would allow public schools to hire religious chaplains to counsel students. Co-author of the bill, Representative Kevin West, stated the bill is not meant to push a specific religious belief, but to counsel students. “We’re not bringing [school chaplains] in because we want a certain religious belief pushed. We’re bringing them in because they have all of those other qualifications and able to assist. I feel like it’s something important when there’s a tragedy and especially in a school… the local ministers [can] come and help,” he said. Schools are facing a shortage of school counselors amidst a growing mental health crisis in young people.

Democrats have pushed back against the measure, saying the qualifications for a chaplain are not clear enough and that the bill violates separation of church and state. The Satanic Temple, which is adamant on the separation of church and state, announced that they would be sending their own ministers into schools to prove a point. “It’s really important to us that when politicians make these egregiously asinine efforts to bypass the First Amendment in constitutional law and try to put religious viewpoints into places where they do not belong, places like schools, that at the very least we uphold pluralism and we uphold religious liberty and show people what exactly that means. It means, for one thing, that the government cannot pick and choose between which religious voices they will allow in a public space and which they will not,” said TST co-founder Lucien Greaves. “While we would prefer states to invest in professional counselors over unlicensed religious support for students, we are prepared to adapt to these legislative conditions. We are committed to offering compassionate guidance to students who come to us so that we can help make positive changes in their lives by listening to their needs and providing support,” said TST executive director Rachel Chambliss.

However, Oklahoma State Superintendent, Ryan Walters, is not having it. “In Oklahoma, we have conservative values. President Joe Biden and the National Education Association want Christianity out of the classroom and are advocating for our kids to have zero morality and faith,” he told Fox News. “Let me be crystal clear: Satanists are not welcome in Oklahoma schools, but they are welcome to go to hell.” The legislation has passed the Oklahoma state House and is awaiting a vote by the Senate.

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