Nathan J. Fish/The Oklahoman/USA Today Network/File
A Bible is lit by stained glass in the sanctuary at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.
CNN  — 

All Oklahoma schools are required to incorporate the Bible and the Ten Commandments in their curriculums, effective immediately, the state’s chief education officer announced in a memorandum Thursday.

At a State Board of Education meeting, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters said the Bible is “one of the most foundational documents used for the Constitution and the birth of our country.”

“It’s crystal clear to us that in the Oklahoma academic standards under Title 70 on multiple occasions, the Bible is a necessary historical document to teach our kids about the history of this country, to have a complete understanding of Western civilization, to have an understanding of the basis of our legal system,” Walters said.

Every classroom in the state from grades 5 through 12 must have a Bible and all teachers must teach from the Bible in the classroom, Walters said.

04:01 - Source: CNN
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The Oklahoma memorandum follows a law in Louisiana passed June 19, that requires all public classrooms to display the Ten Commandments. A group of Louisiana parents and civil rights organizations are suing the state over the new law, contending the legislation violates both US Supreme Court precedent and the First Amendment.

Oklahoma’s directive “is in alignment with the educational standards approved on or about May 2019, with which all districts must comply,” according to a news release.

“The Bible is an indispensable historical and cultural touchstone,” Walters said in the release. “Without basic knowledge of it, Oklahoma students are unable to properly contextualize the foundation of our nation. This is not merely an educational directive but a crucial step in ensuring our students grasp the core values and historical context of our country.”

Interfaith Alliance, a national organization that seeks to protect religious freedoms, told CNN in a statement Thursday: “This is blatant religious coercion that should have absolutely no place in public schools – in Oklahoma or any other state.”

“True religious freedom means ensuring that no one religious group is allowed to impose their viewpoint on all Americans. The vast majority of people of faith in this country reject these dangerous, intimidating efforts to force a Christian nationalist agenda into our schools, our courts and our government,” the statement said.

The new memo comes after the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked an effort to establish the first publicly funded religious charter school in the country. The court on Tuesday ordered the state to rescind its contract with St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School in a 6-2 decision with one recusal.

“Under Oklahoma law, a charter school is a public school,” wrote Justice James R. Winchester for the court. “As such, a charter school must be nonsectarian. However, St. Isidore will evangelize the Catholic faith as part of its school curriculum while sponsored by the State.”

Walters called the ruling “one of the worst” decisions the state Supreme Court has made and pledged to “fight back.”

“What the court did was rule against the parents of Oklahoma who have demanded more choices for their kids. We have a great opportunity to make sure that parents have the most options of any parents in the country here in Oklahoma, by giving them the ability to go to a public school, charter schools, private schools, this would have been the most unique charter school in the country,” Walters said.

“So I want you all to know, we will continue to fight back against this, we want to continue to provide an opportunity for parents to send their kids to high-quality schools.”

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the decision, saying, “Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and serve all students. St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, which plans to discriminate against students, families, and staff and indoctrinate students into one religion, cannot operate as a public charter school.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.