667b0801f71ffaef7a5b66d7 Newgavel

Oklahoma Supreme Court rules that Catholic-run charter school is unconstitutional

June 25, 2024
Using public funds for a religious charter school violates the U.S. and state constitutions, the court decided

A plan in Oklahoma to establish the nation’s first publicly funded religious school violates the U.S. and state constitutions, and must be rescinded, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

The Associated Press reports that the court decided that the approval by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board’s of a charter school run by the Catholic church violates the Establishment Clause, which prohibits government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.”

The ruling rescinds the charter board's approval of an application by the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma for the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School.

“Under Oklahoma law, a charter school is a public school,” Justice James Winchester wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “As such, a charter school must be nonsectarian. However, St. Isidore will evangelize the Catholic school curriculum while sponsored by the state.”

The court’s decision was 7-1; one member concurred in part and one member, Chief Justice John Kane IV, recused himself. Justice Dana Kuehn dissented.

In her dissent, Kuehn wrote that excluding St. Isidore from operating a charter school based solely on its religious affiliation would violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who had urged the charter board not to approve the contract, praised the court’s decision.

“The framers of the U.S. Constitution and those who drafted Oklahoma’s Constitution clearly understood how best to protect religious freedom: by preventing the state from sponsoring any religion at all,” Drummond said.

The K-12 online public charter school was set to start classes later this summer for its first 200 enrollees. Part of its stated mission is to evangelize its students in the Catholic faith. 

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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