Oklahoma Teen Gage Pulliam Under Fire for Effort to Remove Ten Commandments from Muldrow High School
An Oklahoma teen and his sister are facing harassment after he contacted the nation’s leading atheist group in a bid to have the biblical Ten Commandments removed from every classroom of his public high school.
Friendly Atheist reports that Gage Pulliam, a junior at Muldrow High School in tiny Muldrow, contacted the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) for help in removing the Ten Commandments, which were inscribed on plaques in every classroom in his school. Pulliam, who is an atheist, planned on remaining anonymous while quietly working to have the plaques removed. But after other students, including some of Pulliam’s atheist friends, started getting blamed for contacting FFRF, he decided to step forward, not realizing the firestorm he was igniting.
Now Pulliam, who describes himself as “an atheist in the middle of a religious war in small town Oklahoma,” says some students have threatened violence against him. He says his younger sister, who is in the eighth grade, is being harassed and shunned. Pulliam says the middle schooler “has been yelled at by a school bus full of brainwashed children,” and for no reason other than that her brother dared to stand up for the American founding principle of separation of church and state.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” MHS junior Chase Howard told KHOG. “The atmosphere at the school has been great. Everybody is coming together and we’re all sticking together.”
“I’d really like it if they would leave the Ten Commandments up,” MHS senior Benjamin Hill told Fox News. “I think they should allow the expression of religion in school.”
“It’s Christianity under attack within our own country,” railed Pastor John Moore of the Muldrow First Baptist Church. “The irony can’t be missed by anyone who’s lived in this country or grown up in this country… it’s promised in Scripture.”
It’s not only students and local religious leaders who are fighting to defend government endorsement of religion. Teachers, parents and state lawmakers have gotten in on the action too.
“There are many teachers refusing to take them (the plaques) out of their classrooms, students have put ‘fight for faith’ and other things on their cars, and there [are] free t-shirts and a petition being passed around,” Pulliam wrote on Reddit.
Those t-shirts, which are also inscribed with the Ten Commandments, were provided by a local church, the Muldrow First Assembly of God.
Some conservative lawmakers were quick to jump into the fray in support of abandoning fundamental constitutional principle in favor of religious fundamentalism.
“A nation that refuses to allow educators to teach children right from wrong will become a corrupt nation where sin prevails, evil abounds and everyone does as they please,” state Rep. John Bennett, a Republican, said, apparently ignoring the fact that ‘right from wrong’ can be taught by other means than supernatural mythology.
Even the local press seems to have jettisoned objectivity and rallied behind the Ten Commandments. The local paper of record, the Sequoyah County Times, even went so far as to open an article about the controversy with a biblical quote and a statement validating unproven Judeo-Christian mythology:
“And Moses came down from the mountain with the law of the Lord in his hand…”
Moses may have delivered the law of the Lord to the Israelites, but apparently those “written in stone” commandments offend a few students enrolled in Muldrow Middle and High School.
Many parents expressed their support for the fight to keep the religious displays in MHS classrooms.
“I moved here in 2001 from Texas. The first thing I saw when I went to a parent-teacher conference was the Ten Commandments,” Rob McGee told the Sequoyah County Times. “Then I noticed the lack of school violence, lower number of teen pregnancies. It was a pleasant surprise.”
“Now it’s almost like a fear is gripping this small community because God is being removed and when God is removed something else will take its place,” McGee added. “It’s like the last vestige of protection is being removed from our schools, our students and the teachers. If most of the people of Muldrow want to continue to have the Ten Commandments posted, then what right does some outsider have to come in and tell us we can’t post them?”
“I support my daughter in it,” Denise Amer, whose daughter is a senior at the school, told KHOG. “She goes to church. If other kids don’t want to read the Ten Commandments, then they don’t have to, but that doesn’t mean they have to make everyone else do what they want.”
But “they” apparently can. Muldrow school administrators know that in 1980 the US Supreme Court ruled in Stone v. Graham that a Kentucky law requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in every public classroom was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
In case after case, schools which displayed the Ten Commandments have been ordered to remove them. Most recently, schools in Breathitt County, Kentucky did so following a complaint from the FFRF.
FFRF says it will file a lawsuit against Muldrow schools if the offending plaques are not removed.
“The displays must be removed immediately,” FFRF attorney Patrick Elliot wrote in a letter to the school district, calling the plaques a “flagrant violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
“Any student will view a Ten Commandments display in the school as being endorsed by the school,” the letter states. “Muldrow Public Schools promotion of the Judeo-Christian Bible and religion over non-religion impermissibly turns any non-Christian or non-believing student, parent or staff member into an outsider.”
The Times Record reports that the Muldrow Public School administrators will meet on Monday to discuss what action to take. MHS students, parents and local religious leaders are expected to attend.
“We believe the Ten Commandments have a place in our society and are appropriate in our classrooms,” Shawn Money, senior pastor at Muldrow First Assembly of God, told the Times Record. “[We need] as Christians to let our voices be heard. We feel we have been losing things important to us.”
As for the student who sparked the whole controversy, Gage Pulliam told Friendly Atheist that he wants “people to know this isn’t me trying to attack religion.”
“This is me trying to create an environment for kids where they can feel equal.”
Tagged #FightForFaith, atheism, Establishment Clause, ffrf, First Amendment, freedom from religion foundation, Gage Pulliam, Gage Pulliam Muldrow OK, Muldrow First Assembly of God, Muldrow First Baptist Church, Muldrow High School, Muldrow High School Ten Commandments, Muldrow pray-in, Patrick Elliot FFRF, Rep. John Bennett, separation of church and state, Sequoyah County Times, Stone v. Graham, Ten Commandments