LGBTQ Equality

Americans United criticizes Oklahoma officials for anti-LGBTQ+ crusade in the wake of Nex Benedict’s death

More About This Issue

Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement in response to media accounts about Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old non-binary public school student in Oklahoma who was allegedly beaten to death by fellow students:

“While the details about the tragic death of Nex Benedict are still being sorted out, one thing is clear: Oklahoma officials failed this teenager. Backed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters has launched a crusade to force fundamentalist Christianity into the public schools, with a cruel focus on trans youth. Oklahoma legislators have compounded the harm by passing laws undermining LGBTQ+ rights.

“Oklahoma approved the nation’s first religious public school, which will discriminate against LGBTQ+ students, and Walters appointed Chaya Raichik of Libs of TikTok, unqualified internet bully, to ban books and oversee school safety. The hostile, Christian Nationalist environment Walters and Stitt have nurtured in Oklahoma public schools has created a permission structure for anti-LGBTQ+ persecution, and it’s no surprise that teens noticed. State officials have sent the message that trans/nonbinary kids have something wrong with them and do not have equal rights – creating an atmosphere that empowers bullies, in this case with tragic results.

“We hope that Walters, Stitt and other Oklahoma officials learn from this horrific tragedy and pull back on their crusade to devalue LGBTQ+ people and destroy separation of church and state. All decent people must hold these state officials accountable for the consequences of their rhetoric and actions.

“The memory of Nex Benedict demands nothing less.”

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Press Contact

Liz Hayes
Associate Vice President of Communications
[email protected]

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

Act Now