Oklahomans who want to be able to openly display their faith on campus must get a license from the Oklahoma Department of Education.
The law was approved by the legislature on Wednesday and will go into effect in 2018.
The Oklahoma City Star reports the new law will allow Christian students to display the flag, crosses and religious symbols of any religion on their uniforms, as long as they are “in good standing with the university.”
The law applies to religious organizations, schools and universities, but it does not apply to private institutions.
Oklahoma’s Christian Heritage Association says the new rule could open the door to religious discrimination.
“We’re not at liberty to deny students the right to use their religion or any other faith to exercise their free speech and free assembly rights,” said the group’s executive director, Greg Jones.
“The Department of Human Rights is a civil rights agency that is empowered to address this type of discrimination in our state.”
The legislation is expected to be signed into law by Gov.
Mary Fallin by early next year.
The state legislature approved the religious freedom bill on Wednesday, despite opposition from religious conservatives who fear the law will open the floodgates to religious intolerance.
The new law has been opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Baptist Convention and other groups.
But critics say the new legislation will allow religious groups to discriminate against those who might not be religious enough to be considered Christian enough.
“It’s a pretty big step in the right direction, and we’re glad it’s happening,” said David Williams, an assistant professor of political science at Oklahoma State University who has written extensively on the Christian Right.
“There are certain things that have been done over the years that have allowed groups to have the freedom to discriminate and to discriminate to exclude certain groups, but this is a big step forward.”