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Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects Catholic charter school proposal

Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects Catholic charter school proposal

Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects Catholic charter school proposal

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a state-funded Catholic charter school proposal, saying the religious public school, the first of its kind, violated the state and U.S. Constitution.

The case of the San Isidoro Catholic Virtual School in Seville would have marked the first time that a state directly financed a public religious school. The ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and will be closely watched after several recent rulings that have expanded the allowable use of tax dollars in support of religious education.

The ruling said the state’s charter school law, as well as the state and U.S. constitutions, only allow non-sectarian public schools, and that the State is prohibited from using public money for the establishment of a religious institution.

Supporters of the school, which was approved last year by the state’s online charter school board, pointed to recent Supreme Court rulings that say if states give money to secular schools through vouchers, they can’t discriminate against them. religious schools. San Isidoro made the same argument about charter schools.

“The educational promise of St. Isidore is reflected in the more than 200 applications we have received from families excited about this new learning opportunity,” wrote Lara Schuler, senior director of Catholic Education for the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The ruling “ignores the needs of many families in Oklahoma who just want to have options in their children’s education. “We will stand firm as we seek to right this wrong and join the great diversity of Oklahoma charter schools serving all families in the state.”

Republican Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who filed a lawsuit against the proposed school in October, wrote in a statement that the decision “is a tremendous victory for religious freedom. Those who wrote the United States Constitution and those who wrote the Oklahoma Constitution clearly understood how best to protect religious freedom: by preventing the state from sponsoring any religion.”

Drummond in his statement framed the decision as a check against some minority religions.

“Now Oklahomans can rest assured that their tax dollars will not fund Sharia teachings or even Satanism,” he wrote. “While I understand that the Governor and other politicians are disappointed with this outcome, I hope that the people of Oklahoma can take joy that they will not be forced to fund radical religious schools that violate their faith.”

St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School was to be operated by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa, and leaders said religion would be infused throughout the curriculum.

While vouchers give public money to private school students, the establishment of the Oklahoma charter school would have meant the government was paying directly for a religiously infused education.

Those on both sides of the debate said they are watching to see if the case is taken up by the Supreme Court, whose approval of direct funding of religion would change modern history. Some experts have questioned what would be left of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause if states could directly fund religious education, a sentiment echoed by the court decision.

Allowing the school to move forward, Oklahoma judges wrote Tuesday, “would create a slippery slope and what the drafters warned against: the destruction of Oklahomans’ freedom to practice religion without fear of government intervention.”

The leader of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, which advocates for school choice, tweeted Tuesday that the decision was “probably” correct.

“Charter schools are public schools and the government should not be in the position of approving or disapproving religious schools,” Neal McCluskey wrote. The answer, he said, was to allow parents to use their tax dollars to spend wherever they wanted, essentially using vouchers.