The Freedom From Religion Foundation is strongly objecting to the application that the biggest Catholic entities in Oklahoma have submitted to establish a state-funded charter school.
FFRF published a counterargument last month to Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor’s opinion that a charter school may be religiously affiliated. Now that the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa have gone forward with an application to the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, FFRF is asking for it to be rejected.
“The joint application from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa to establish the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School is clear in its intent to establish a Catholic charter school,” FFRF Legal Fellow Karen Heineman writes to the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.
The application outlines the vision and purpose of the school, which is to operate as a Catholic school. This includes admitting “any” students so long as they are willing to adhere to the beliefs of the Catholic faith. Additionally, the curriculum would require religion and theology classes in students’ schedules. The beliefs the school will espouse will include Catholic understandings of the sanctity of marriage, abortion, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Hiring policies indicate that the school will retain its rights to consider religion in employment-related decisions. The school defends this decision by stating that it will adhere to Oklahoma federal and state laws, including nondiscrimination requirements, to the extent that the Catholic Church will allow. Employment will hinge on employees carrying out duties consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and they are to “refrain from actions contrary to the teachings.”
In short, the proposed St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School will give priority to the Catholic teachings and preferences through taxpayer funding. This is not only a violation of the U.S. Constitution, FFRF notes, but also the Oklahoma Constitution and the Charter Schools Act, all of which strictly prohibit the use of state funds to promote religion, including in the realm of schooling.
FFRF is calling for its area members to attend a Feb. 14 meeting to urge the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to reject this application, as a final board member has been appointed with the potential to “sneak through” the approval.
“The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board must reject this proposal,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Vatican is one of the largest and wealthiest organizations in the world, and can bankroll its own schools to inculcate its faith. Only 10 percent of Oklahoma taxpayers are Catholic. Yet all taxpayers would be forced to contribute to a Catholic virtual charter school siphoning taxpayer funds away from public schools to implement Catholic doctrine, robbing students of a secular education.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 39,000 members across the country, including in Oklahoma. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.