Oklahoma City (AP) – Oklahoma’s state board of education voted Monday to approve the nation’s first publicly funded religious school, despite warnings from the state attorney general that the decision was unconstitutional.
The Statewide Virtual Charter Schools Commission has approved by a vote of 3 to 2 the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma’s application to establish the St. Isidore Virtual Charter School in Seville. The online public charter school will be open to K-12 students across the state.
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond had warned the board that such a decision would clearly violate the Oklahoma Constitution.
“The approval of publicly funded religious schools violates Oklahoma law and is not in the best interest of taxpayers,” Drummond said in a statement shortly after the board’s vote. “It is very disappointing that the directors have violated their oath to fund religious schools with our tax dollars. We have exposed ourselves to potential legal action.”
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma stated in the “Vision and Purpose of the Organization” section of the application that “Catholic schools participate in the Church’s evangelizing mission and are a privileged environment in which Christian education is practiced.” .
“We are very pleased that the board agreed with our claim and application for the nation’s first religious charter school,” said Brett Farley, executive director of the Oklahoma Catholic Conference.
Americans calling for the separation of church and state condemned the board’s approval.
In a statement, the organization’s president and CEO, Rachel Lazer, said, “We want more than just helping Oklahoma establish the nation’s first public religious charter school. “It’s hard to think of a clear violation of the religious freedom of the families I attend.” “This is a major change for American democracy. Americas United will work with Oklahoma and partners across the country to oppose this decision and uphold the separation of church and state promised in both the Oklahoma and U.S. constitutions. We will take all legal steps to do so.”
Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt earlier this year signed into law a bill giving parents in the state tax incentives for sending their children to private schools, including religious schools, and applauded the board’s vote. .
“This is a triumph for religious liberty and educational freedom in our great state, and we are encouraged by efforts like this to give parents more choices when it comes to educating their children,” Stitt said in a statement.
The article has been amended to indicate that the name of the virtual charter is Saint Isidore of Seville, not Saint Isodore.
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https://fox40.com/news/national/ap-us-news/oklahoma-school-board-approves-what-would-be-the-1st-taxpayer-funded-religious-school-in-us/ Oklahoma Board of Education Approves America’s First Taxpayer-Funded Religious School