Top Court Rejects Planned Publicly-Funded Religious Charter School

( – An attempt to create the first religious publicly funded charter school was blocked by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 25 with a majority ruling.

The highest court in Oklahoma made a 6-2 decision against St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Charter School, suggesting that they violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, as well as violating the Oklahoma constitution. Justice James R. Winchester wrote that charter schools are considered public schools under Oklahoma law, and therefore must be nonsectarian. However, St. Isidore planned to “evangelize the Catholic faith” as part of their curriculum, which makes them ineligible to receive taxpayer funding.

Back in June 2023, the Virtual Charter School Board of Oklahoma approved St. Isidore’s application to create a virtual religious charter school, which led the state’s Attorney General, Gentner Drummond, to file a lawsuit against them in October to block them from receiving taxpayer funding. Drummond, a Republican, called the plan an “irreparable violation” of religious liberty as well as an “unthinkable waste” of tax money.

Though the state’s Attorney General opposed the plan to give the school taxpayer money, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt was supportive of the plan, suggesting that allowing the school to use state funding was victory for both “religious liberty” as well as “education freedom.”

After the ruling, Gentner acknowledged that the Governor, among others, were disappointed with the outcome, he pointed out that if the state allowed a Christian school to be funded by taxes, that would open the door to allowing other schools to teach “Sharia Law.” He added that he hoped Oklahomans would be happy that taxpayers will never be forced to fund religious schools that go against their own personal faith.

Not all the Justices agreed with the decision. Justice Dana Kuehn dissented, suggesting that a private entity with their own religious affiliations being funded by the state does not “establish a state religion,” which is the core aspect of the Establishment Clause.

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