Recommended

Christian leaders want to join lawsuit against first Catholic charter school in US

Wikimedia Commons/Rantemario
Wikimedia Commons/Rantemario

Several Christian leaders in Oklahoma have asked to join a lawsuit seeking to reverse the approval of the first Catholic charter school in the country. 

Oklahoma’s Republican Attorney General Gentner Drummond filed a complaint against the approval of the charter school in October, expressing concerns about church and state separation.  

In a Nov. 14 filing with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, four Christian leaders asked to join a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and its members over the approval of the Catholic Church-affiliated St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Catholic School as a public charter school.

The petitioners include Melissa Abdo, a practicing Catholic who serves on the Jenks Public Schools Board of Education and the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association; Bruce Prescott, a retired Baptist minister who taught at a public high school and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; the Rev. Mitch Randall, chief executive officer of Good Faith Media and former executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics; and the Rev. Lori Walke, senior minister of Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Education Law Center and the Freedom From Religion Foundation represent the four faith leaders, along with three other petitioners, as they seek to join Drummond’s lawsuit.

The legal organizations elaborated on their clients’ desire to join the challenge in a joint statement last month.

“Our clients’ proposed intervention would benefit the Attorney General’s lawsuit because they are among the people — parents, students, families, educators, clergy, taxpayers, and a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation — who will suffer if a religious public school is permitted to open,” the advocacy groups stated.

“They and their children will be excluded by the school’s discriminatory practices. They will be taxed by the government and forced to financially support a religion that many of them do not share.”

The petitioners previously filed a lawsuit against the opening of St. Isidore as a public religious charter school in Oklahoma County District Court over the summer.

They believe that the approval of the Catholic school as a charter school violates the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, which requires charter schools to “be as equally free and open to all students as traditional public schools” and remain “nonsectarian in [their] . . . admission policies [and] employment practices.”

The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved the charter school application for St. Isidore in a 3-2 vote earlier this year.

St. Isidore describes itself as “a collaborative effort between the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa to serve students in Oklahoma” who have “limited access to a Catholic school” by providing them with a “quality Catholic education.” The school plans to open in August 2024. 

While Drummond has emerged as an opponent of the effort to make St. Isidore the first religious charter school in the U.S., the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters has thrown his support behind the school. Walters has pushed back on the idea that providing taxpayer funding to St. Isidore by making it a public charter school is illegal.

According to Walters, “Distribution of state aid to St. Isidore — once proper administrative steps are complete — is not only lawful, but required under the Free Exercise Trilogy.”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.

Most Popular

Free Religious Freedom Updates

A religious liberty newsletter that is a must-read for people of faith.

More Articles