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Los Angeles: The highest education official in the central US state of Oklahoma on Thursday ordered public schools to teach the Bible - a shock move that is sure to raise hackles and fuel the culture wars dividing Americans.

“Every teacher, every classroom in the state, will have a Bible in the classroom and will be teaching from the Bible,” state superintendent Ryan Walters told a press conference, saying a memo would go to all school districts outlining the new rule.

“The Bible is a necessary historical document to teach our kids about the history of this country, to have a complete understanding of Western civilisation, to have an understanding of the basis of our legal system,” said the elected Republican official.

The announcement comes one week after the Republican governor of the southern state of Louisiana signed into law a measure requiring that the Ten Commandments be displayed in all public school classrooms.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution forbids the establishment of a national religion or the preference of one religion over another. The separation of church and state is a founding US principle.

The Louisiana law is already facing a legal challenge, and the Oklahoma guidance seems destined for the courts as well.

Walters had said last week he hoped to be able to replicate the Louisiana measure in his state.

“We’ve got to bring God back in school and not allow the radical left to turn our schools into atheist centres that only speak about our country without any kind of influence by their faith,” he told Fox News.

Trump hails move

His comments were hailed by former president and current White House hopeful Donald Trump, who is counting on support from Christian evangelicals to win back the Oval Office from Joe Biden in November.

“Great job by Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters on Fox News last night. Strong, decisive, and knows his ‘stuff.’

I LOVE OKLAHOMA!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

Oklahoma, part of America’s so-called “Bible Belt,” recently tried to pour public funding into a private religious charter school - what would have been a first nationwide.

The state’s supreme court halted the project this week, but it could end up in Washington at the US Supreme Court.