Bill aims to protect students from religious discrimination

Bill aims to protect students from religious discrimination at school

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Kendric Maple is a grad student at OU, and an NCAA Champion Wrestler, when it was time to get his ring last year -- he ran into some problems.

"I wanted to put a cross on it," said Maple, "and they denied it, saying that I couldn't because of separation of church and state, because they were paying for it." 1:59

Maple is Christian.  Maple says the cross represents his faith, and believes officials tried to deny his freedom of expression.

"I tried to appeal it," said Maple, "but they said there's nothing I could do about it."

Maple and his wife support Senate Bill 1142, also known as The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act.

"It's good for kids to keep religion incorporated in their lives," said Jordan Maple.

The bill-- allows students of all religious backgrounds to work their religion into school assignments, commencement speeches, and extra curricular activities without fear of repercussions.

"This will allow you to express your views but it will also protect the students if someone wants to challenge that," said Sen. Mark Allen (R-Spiro).  

Sen. Allen authored the bill, he says the legislation would protect schools from costly lawsuits by sending the cases to the Attorney General's Office.

"It won't be up on the school to pay the bill to defend that right," he said.

Although the bill's intention is to defend religious liberty and freedom of expression, opponents believe the bill could pose some problems.

"I don't think that Satanism should be in school," said Wallace Williams, an opponent to the bill.

Fox-25 Legal Analyst, David Slane says despite the bill's intention, opening the door to express religious views in an academic setting, could lead to more potential lawsuits.

"That's where you get into trouble," said Slane, "because the kids go home, and then parents get upset, and all of the sudden we have problems at school, that don't have anything to do with education."

Slane worries an act, intended to prevent discrimination, could lead to more bullying of students practicing a faith outside of Christianity.

"They are going to catch heck," he said, "they are going to get discriminated, based upon their religion."

But for many supporters of the bill, like Maple, there's no denying the role religion plays in their life outside of school.

"It's a big part of your life and to say you can't have that, going to school everyday is just ridiculous," said Maple.

The legislative session begins February 3.  

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