Thursday, September 21, 2023

OSDE files Motion to Dismiss in religious charter school case

OSDE Files Motion to Dismiss in Religious Charter School Case

Oklahoma City, Okla (Sept. 20th) – Today, the Oklahoma State Department of Education filed a Motion to Dismiss in OKPLAC, INC., d/b/a Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee, et al., v. STATEWIDE VIRTUAL CHARTER SCHOOL BOARD, et al. – concerning the approval of a religious charter school.

“Religious freedom is at the very bedrock of our nation,” said State Superintendent Ryan Walters. “Those who would sue to abridge the freedom of Americans to freely exercise their religion stand against 400 years of religious tolerance in America, predating the United States itself.  I will fight to protect the freedom of all Oklahomans enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Oklahoma laws, especially in our schools.”

In June, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted to approve the application of the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Catholic Charter School, an online public school to be administered by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa, which would create the first religious charter school in the nation.

In the last six years, the United States Supreme Court has thrice told a state that its practice of excluding religious organizations from public benefits is “odious” to the United States Constitution. Due to these binding precedents, the government cannot exclude religious institutions from generally available public benefits merely because of their religious nature.

Therefore, the Department must consider request for state aid in the same manner that it would consider a secular request. Nor may the Department discriminate against St. Isidore because of its religious character or substantially burden St. Isidore’s religious practices in violation of the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act. 51 O.S. § 253.


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