For a several years, Religious Right groups have pushed to have the Ten Commandments posted in public schools. A group of Americans United activists in Oklahoma wants to promote another ten items in schools: the Bill of Rights.
Earlier this year, civil liberties activists in the state began raising money to pay for the creation of two bronze plaques listing the Bill of Rights. The group raised $10,000 and commissioned the plaques, which are four feet tall and three feet wide.
The plaques list all ten amendments in raised letters; they are accompanied by an image of the Statue of Liberty. and are headlined “The Bill of Rights, 1791.” The plaques were donated to two public high schools in Norman, Okla.
Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and president of Americans United’s Oklahoma Chapter, said he was motivated to act after reading media reports about Americans’ low level of knowledge about the Bill of Rights.
One of those reports was a poll that surveyed 1,000 adults and found only one person who could name the five freedoms found in the First Amendment. That same poll found that many respondents could name all five members of “The Simpsons” cartoon family and the judges on “American Idol.”
Prescott and an ally, Charles Wesner of the Bill of Rights Democracy Project, spearheaded the effort. Wesner said it is especially important to help young people understand these freedoms.
“The Bill of Rights is the thing that makes our country unique,” Wesner told the Norman Transcript. “This is a document we should be celebrating and reminded of. Unfortunately, we have taken it for granted.”
Prescott and Wesner approached Joseph Siano, superintendent of the Norman schools, and solicited his support for the project.
Siano backed the educational project enthusiastically, telling the Transcript, “The Bill of Rights is an important part of our history and the freedoms we all enjoy. We appreciate this donation of the Bill of Rights display to our schools and students.”
The plaques were unveiled during a ceremony on Sept. 18. The group plans to raise more money and donate plaques to other high schools in the county.