Oklahoma Attorney General Says Approval Of Religious Charter School Goes Against State Constitution

Drummond said the approval of taxpayer-funded religious schools sets a dangerous precedent, and this contract should not go forward.

Friday, October 20th 2023, 5:41 pm

Oklahoma's Attorney General is filing a lawsuit over the approval of a religious charter school.

Gentner Drummond said this would be the opposite of religious liberty.

Drummond said the approval of taxpayer-funded religious schools sets a dangerous precedent, and this contract should not go forward.

State leaders within the same party disagree on what religious liberty entails.

Back in June, three members from the Oklahoma virtual charter school board voted to approve a religious charter school.

The St. Isidore Catholic Charter School would be a taxpayer-funded school for Oklahomans.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond said the approval goes directly against the state's constitution.

“We are prohibited as a state from funding religion but required as a state to fund education, and our charter schools are public schools," he said.

This week, the state board members signed the contract, and Drummond filed a lawsuit on Friday to stop it.

“I’m asking the Supreme Court to issue a writ that prohibits the contract from going forward," said Drummond.

He said this approval would open the door for any religion to open a virtual religious charter school, and all Oklahomans would have to foot the bill.

“Now, the next applicant may be an extreme sect of Muslim that teaches only Sharia Law, excludes young women, and teaches young men to subjugate women. Do we really want to fund that?” he said.

Governor Kevin Stitt responded by saying the lawsuit is a “political stunt” and the creation of the school is a “win for religious and education freedom in Oklahoma,” emphasizing school choice.

“When the narrative is this is an act against religious liberty, know that is a lie. Anybody who says that is perturbing religious liberty," said Drummond.

Drummond is also concerned that moving forward with this Catholic charter school would put Oklahoma’s more than $1 billion for education it gets from the federal government at risk.

The next step will be for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to hear the case.

Full statement from Stitt:

This lawsuit is a political stunt and runs counter to our Oklahoma values and the law. AG Drummond seems to lack any firm grasp on the constitutional principle of religious freedom and masks his disdain for the Catholics’ pursuit by obsessing over non-existent schools that don’t neatly align with his religious preference. His discriminatory and ignorant comment concerning a potential Muslim charter is a perfect illustration," said Gov. Stitt. "The creation of St. Isadore’s is a win for religious and education freedom in Oklahoma. We want parents to be able to choose the education that is best for their kids, regardless of income. The state shouldn’t stand in the way.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters also released a statement about the lawsuit:

The Constitution is crystal clear on religious liberty, but that fundamental truth is lost on some people. Oklahomans hold their faith and their liberty sacred, and atheism should not be the state-sponsored religion. We should not play politics with the future of our kids through this misguided lawsuit.
Oklahoma parents know what is best for their kids and deserve the most expansive system of school choice in the country so they can make the right decision for their families. The approval of St. Isidore of Seville is a landmark in the battle for educational and religious freedom, and I am proud that Oklahoma is leading the way. We will never back down.

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