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Lawsuit Filed Against Proposed Catholic Charter School in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Capitol is seen in Oklahoma City Sept. 30, 2015. (CNS photo/Jon Herskovitz, Reuters)

by The Table Staff 

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — A proposed Catholic charter school in Oklahoma, slated to be the nation’s first publicly funded religious school, received its first legal challenge in a lawsuit filed on Monday, July 31.

St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School would be an online charter school for grades kindergarten-12. It would be tuition-free, open to all students throughout Oklahoma, and would receive state funding.

But the lawsuit filed in an Oklahoma City state district court aims to prevent the state from sponsoring the school.

It also seeks to keep the school from calling itself a charter school and ensure it does not receive any taxpayers’ dollars or other public funding.

Plaintiffs include several taxpayers, two faith leaders, plus a public education nonprofit — the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee (OPLAC).

Proponents of the proposed school were not surprised by the litigation. Included was Brett Farley, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma.

“News of a suit from these organizations comes as no surprise since they have indicated early in this process their intentions to litigate,” Farley said in a text message to The Associated Press. 

Still, Farley added that the school’s proponents “remain confident that the Oklahoma court will ultimately agree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in favor of religious liberty.”

Among the defendants are the school itself; the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and its five members; the Oklahoma State Department of Education; and Ryan Walters, the state’s public schools superintendent.

In June, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted 3-2 to approve an application for the school submitted by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa.

Opponents vowed legal action to prevent public funding of the school.

After  the school board’s vote in June, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said approving the religious charter school would go against the state’s Constitution. 

“The approval of any publicly funded religious school is contrary to Oklahoma law and not in the best interest of taxpayers,” he said. 

OPLAC explained its rationale for the lawsuit Monday in a blog post on its website, calling the 3-2 vote “a dangerous and unconstitutional decision.

“We understand that true religious freedom comes from the absence of government in our churches, synagogues, and private parochial schools,” the blog stated. “We also recognize that charter schools are public schools.

“The very idea of a public charter school funded by taxpayers and promoting a religion as part of its teaching is at its core illegal. It is the antithesis of ‘public.’ No parent or taxpayer should be forced to fund someone else’s religious faith.”

Meanwhile, the state’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt reiterated his support for the school. He called the vote in June “a win for religious liberty and education freedom.”

On Monday, Stitt said, “To unlock more school options, I’m supportive of that,” the AP reported.

2 thoughts on “Lawsuit Filed Against Proposed Catholic Charter School in Oklahoma

  1. A public Catholic charter school is a contradiction in terminology and meaning. This country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. Let’s keep it that way. Let the Church use its time, talent and treasure to support its own Faith based schools.