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Catholic charter school faces opposition in Oklahoma

ADF attorneys representing Statewide Virtual Charter School Board file motion to dismiss lawsuit brought by activists, defend parents’ right to send kids to school of their choice
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee and defend the board’s decision to allow religious groups to seek public funding for privately operated charter schools, as protected by the First Amendment.

On June 5, the board approved a revised application to establish St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School as a statewide virtual charter school. The Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee then sued to overturn the board’s approval of St. Isidore, filing the lawsuit Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. However, as ADF attorneys explain in the motion to dismiss, the case is premature because many of the steps necessary to establish St. Isidore as a statewide virtual charter school have not yet occurred: no contract has been negotiated, no charter containing St. Isidore’s actual policies has been adopted, and no final contract has been approved by the board at a public meeting—all of which are required by statute before St. Isidore can begin operations.

“The board’s decision was informed by the First Amendment, which prohibits state officials from denying public funding to religious schools simply because they are religious,” said ADF Senior Counsel Phil Sechler. “Oklahoma parents and children are better off with more choices, not fewer. The U.S. Constitution and Oklahoma law protect St. Isidore’s freedom to operate according to its faith and the board’s decision to approve such learning options for Oklahoma families.”

The board rejected St. Isidore’s initial application, considered numerous public comments directed at the issue of religious charters, and ultimately concluded that St. Isidore’s revised application satisfied all but one of the provisions in the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act and the board’s rules. The board determined that enforcing that one provision, which requires that a charter school be “nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations,” would violate the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution—a conclusion first provided by Oklahoma’s former attorney general and later seconded by the governor.

  • Pronunciation guide: Sechler (SECK’-lur)

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.

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Phil Sechler
Phil Sechler
Senior Counsel
Phil Sechler serves as senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, where he focuses on academic and religious freedom.