FFRF and others welcome Okla. Supreme Court blocking nation’s first religious public charter school

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and other civil society groups are applauding the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision today barring the nation’s first religious charter school.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Education Law Center are the other eminent organizations in a coalition formed to oppose the charter school. The groups, which represent faith leaders, public school parents and public education advocates in a separate lawsuit to stop Oklahoma from sponsoring and funding St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, have issued the following joint statement:

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision safeguards public education and upholds the separation of religion and government. Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and serve all students. St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, which plans to discriminate against students, families and staff and indoctrinate students into one religion, cannot operate as a public charter school. We will continue our efforts to protect public education and religious freedom, including the separation of church and state.”

The organizations, supported by Oklahoma-based counsel Odom & Sparks PLLC and J. Douglas Mann, represent faith leaders, public school parents and public education advocates who object to their tax dollars funding a public charter school that will discriminate against students and families based on their religion and LGBTQ-plus status, won’t commit to adequately serving students with disabilities, and will indoctrinate students into one religion. These nine Oklahomans and OKPLAC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting public education, filed their lawsuit, OKPLAC Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, on July 31 of last year in the District Court of Oklahoma County.

The plaintiffs in OKPLAC Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board include OKPLAC (Oklahoma Parent Legislative Advocacy Coalition), Melissa Abdo, Krystal Bonsall, Leslie Briggs, Brenda Lené, Michele Medley, Dr. Bruce Prescott, the Rev. Dr. Mitch Randall, the Rev. Dr. Lori Walke and Erika Wright.

A group of the plaintiffs also filed an amicus brief in the Oklahoma attorney general’s case, Drummond v. Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, that sparked today’s ruling. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s opinion incorporates many of the arguments made in that amicus brief.

The team of attorneys that represents the plaintiffs is led by Alex J. Luchenitser of Americans United and includes Patrick Elliott of FFRF; Sarah Taitz and Jenny Samuels of Americans United; Daniel Mach and Heather L. Weaver of the ACLU; Robert Kim, Jessica Levin and Wendy Lecker of Education Law Center; Benjamin H. Odom, John H. Sparks, Michael W. Ridgeway and Lisa M. Millington of Odom & Sparks; and J. Douglas Mann.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.

For more than 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, the ACLU takes on the toughest civil liberties fights in pursuit of liberty and justice for all. For more information on the ACLU, visit www.aclu.org.

Education Law Center pursues justice and equity for public school students by enforcing their right to a high-quality education in safe, equitable, non-discriminatory, integrated, and well-funded learning environments. We seek to support and improve public schools as the center of communities and the foundation of a multicultural and multiracial democratic society. For more information about ELC, visit https://edlawcenter.org/.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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