Oklahoma school board approves what would be the first taxpayer-funded religious school in the United States

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma state school board voted Monday to approve what would be the first state-funded religious school in the country, despite a warning from the state attorney general that the decision was unconstitutional.

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted 3 to 2 to approve the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma’s application to establish the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School. The online public charter school would be open to students across the state in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond had warned the board that such a move clearly violated the Oklahoma Constitution.

“Approving any state-funded religious school is against Oklahoma law and not in the best interest of taxpayers,” Drummond said in a statement shortly after the board vote. “It is extremely disappointing that board members have broken their oath in order to fund religious schools with our taxpayers’ money. In doing so, these members have exposed themselves and the state to potential legal action that could be costly.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma stated in the “Organizational Vision and Purpose” section of its application that: “The Catholic school participates in the evangelistic mission of the Church and is the privileged environment in which Christian education is provided”.

Brett Farley, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, said, “We are thrilled the board has accepted our argument and our bid for the nation’s first religious charter school.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State denounced the council’s endorsement.

“It’s hard to think of a clearer violation of the religious freedom of Oklahoma taxpayers and public school families than the state’s establishment of the nation’s first religious public charter school,” the president said. and group chief executive, Rachel Laser, in a statement. radical change for American democracy. Americans United will work with our Oklahoma and national partners to take all possible legal action to fight this ruling and defend the separation of church and state that is promised in the Oklahoma and state constitutions. -United.

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who earlier this year signed a bill that would give parents in the state a tax incentive to send their children to private schools, including religious schools, hailed the vote of the board.

“This is a victory for religious freedom and educational freedom in our great state, and I am encouraged by these efforts to give parents more options when it comes to their child’s education,” said Stitt in a statement.


This story has been corrected to show that the name of the virtual charter is St. Isidore of Seville, not St. Isodore.

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