FFRF, others obtain court win in challenge to nation’s first religious public charter school 

A lawsuit seeking to block the state of Oklahoma from sponsoring and funding the nation’s first religious public charter school can move forward, an Oklahoma judge ruled today. 

During a hearing today, Judge Richard Ogden of the District Court of Oklahoma County issued a new ruling in OKPLAC Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board denying nearly all of the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Education Law Center, who represent the nine plaintiffs in the case, applauded today’s decision. The OKPLAC plaintiffs have legal representation from Oklahoma-based counsel Odom & Sparks PLLC and J. Douglas Mann. The organizations involved in the case issued the following statement:

“We’re pleased that the court will allow our plaintiffs’ case to proceed. Oklahoma law is clear: Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and welcome all students. Oklahoma taxpayers, including our plaintiffs, should not be forced to financially support St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School, which plans to discriminate against students, families, and staff and indoctrinate students into one religion. Our lawsuit aims to protect public education, the separation of church and state, and all Oklahomans’ religious freedom by preventing St. Isidore from receiving state funds or operating as a public charter school.”

Still pending before the court is the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction to prevent St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School from operating and receiving state funds as a public charter school. In a motion filed last Friday, the plaintiffs explained to the court the importance of ensuring that no taxpayer money funds St. Isidore and that the school does not open as a public charter school during the 2024-25 school year while litigation is ongoing in their case and in a similar lawsuit filed in the Oklahoma Supreme Court by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond. St. Isidore is, and has always been, free to open as a private religious school that taxpayers would not be forced to support.

The lawsuit was filed on July 31, 2023, in the District Court of Oklahoma County. The plaintiffs object to their tax dollars funding a public charter school that will discriminate against students and families based on their religion and LGBTQ+ status, will not commit to adequately serving students with disabilities, and will indoctrinate students into one religion. The plaintiffs 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.

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

Send this to a friend