Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks Nation’s First Religious Public Charter School

June 25, 2024 11:20 am

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, Education Law Center, and Freedom From Religion Foundation applaud the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision today barring the nation's first religious charter school. The organizations, which represent faith leaders, public school parents, and public education advocates in a separate lawsuit to stop Oklahoma from sponsoring and funding St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, issued the following joint statement:

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision safeguards public education and upholds the separation of religion and government. Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and serve all students. St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, which plans to discriminate against students, families, and staff and indoctrinate students into one religion, cannot operate as a public charter school. We will continue our efforts to protect public education and religious freedom, including the separation of church and state.”

The organizations, supported by Oklahoma-based counsel Odom & Sparks PLLC and J. Douglas Mann, represent faith leaders, public school parents, and public education advocates who object to their tax dollars funding a public charter school that will discriminate against students and families based on their religion and LGBTQ+ status, won’t commit to adequately serving students with disabilities, and will indoctrinate students into one religion. These nine Oklahomans and OKPLAC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting public education, filed their lawsuit, OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, on July 31, 2023, in the District Court of Oklahoma County.

The plaintiffs in OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board include OKPLAC (Oklahoma Parent Legislative Advocacy Coalition), Melissa Abdo, Krystal Bonsall, Leslie Briggs, Brenda Lené, Michele Medley, Dr. Bruce Prescott, the Rev. Dr. Mitch Randall, the Rev. Dr. Lori Walke, and Erika Wright.

A group of the plaintiffs also filed an amicus brief in the Attorney General’s case, Drummond v. Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, on Dec. 27. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s opinion incorporates many of the arguments made in that amicus brief.

The team of attorneys that represents the plaintiffs is led by Alex J. Luchenitser of Americans United and includes Sarah Taitz and Jenny Samuels of Americans United; Daniel Mach and Heather L. Weaver of the ACLU; Robert Kim, Jessica Levin, and Wendy Lecker of Education Law Center; Patrick Elliott of FFRF; Benjamin H. Odom, John H. Sparks, Michael W. Ridgeway, and Lisa M. Millington of Odom & Sparks; and J. Douglas Mann.

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