Oklahoma approves first US publicly-funded religious school despite legal warnings

In a controversial move, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board in Oklahoma has given the green light for the establishment of the first publicly-funded religious school in the United States, despite the state attorney general’s warning that such a decision is unconstitutional. The board approved the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma’s application to create the St Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School, an online public charter school for students from kindergarten to grade 12 across the state.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond expressed his disappointment with the board’s decision, stating, “The approval of any publicly funded religious school is contrary to Oklahoma law and not in the best interest of taxpayers.” Drummond further warned that the board members have exposed themselves and the state to potential legal action that could be costly.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma’s application highlights that the school would be part of the Church’s evangelizing mission and serve as a privileged environment for Christian education. Brett Farley, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, expressed their delight with the board’s decision, saying, “We are elated that the board agreed with our argument and application for the nation’s first religious charter school.”

However, the nonprofit Americans United for Separation of Church and State strongly condemned the board’s approval. The group’s president and CEO, Rachel Laser, stated, “It’s hard to think of a clearer violation of the religious freedom of Oklahoma taxpayers and public-school families than the state establishing the nation’s first religious public charter school.” Laser further emphasized that the decision represents a significant change for American democracy and vowed to take all possible legal action to defend the separation of church and state as promised in both the Oklahoma and US Constitutions.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma’s Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill providing parents in the state with a tax incentive to send their children to private schools, including religious institutions. Governor Stitt praised the board’s vote, saying, “This is a win for religious liberty and education freedom in our great state, and I am encouraged by these efforts to give parents more options when it comes to their child’s education.”

World News


With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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