Religious Charter School Hits Roadblock

(Patriot.Buzz) – In a major setback for the education of future generations, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court recently ruled that the establishment of St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School was unconstitutional.

The institution was intended to be the nation’s first publicly funded religious charter school.

According to the court, charter schools must maintain a nonsectarian stance in all aspects including their programs, admission policies and operations.

St. Isidore was initially approved by Oklahoma’s Charter School Board in June of last year and was expected to start classes in the fall of 2024.

The court elaborated, “This State’s establishment of a religious charter school violates Oklahoma statutes, the Oklahoma Constitution, and the Establishment Clause.”

“St. Isidore cannot justify its creation by invoking Free Exercise rights as a religious entity. St. Isidore came into existence through its charter with the State and will function as a component of the State’s public school system,” it added.

Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, who represent the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, had previously argued against the stance taken by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who opposed the school’s contract.

“The U.S. Constitution and Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Act both protect St. Isidore’s freedom to operate according to its faith and support the board’s decision to approve such learning options for Oklahoma families,” said ADF Senior Counsel Phil Sechler.

Sechler continued, “The board knew that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause prohibits state officials from denying public funding to religious schools simply because they are religious.”

He urged the state’s high court to dismiss the legal challenge that discriminates against religion and affirmed that religious groups deserve the same treatment as secular ones.

Drummond had expressed concern that approving a charter school for one faith might require approving schools for all faiths, including those that most Oklahomans might find objectionable and unworthy of public funding.

Drummond’s predecessor, John O’Connor, had argued in 2022 that religious institutions should have the right to operate charter schools and doubted that the U.S. Supreme Court would support a state’s decision to “discriminate against religiously affiliated” entities wanting to establish such schools based on their faith.

Following the court’s decision, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City said it was disappointed mainly due to the potential students and their families who were looking forward to the offerings of St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School.

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