Liberty Justice Center Urges Oklahoma Supreme Court to Reject Petition Attacking First Religious Charter School in U.S.

January 9, 2024

On January 8, the Liberty Justice Center and the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty jointly filed an amicus brief with the Oklahoma Supreme Court in defense of the nation’s first-ever religious charter school in Drummond v. Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. Their amicus brief argues that the Oklahoma Attorney General’s opposition to the charter school is motivated by animus against minority religions, which violates the First Amendment.

On June 5, 2023, relying on a legal opinion by Oklahoma’s then-Attorney General, John O’Connor, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board granted a charter to St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Catholic School, making it the first religious charter school in the United States. In January 2023, O’Connor was succeeded by Oklahoma’s current Attorney General, Gentner Drummond. Shortly after assuming office, Drummond withdrew the legal opinion relied upon by the Board and filed a petition to repeal St. Isidore’s charter.

Drummond has argued that permitting St. Isidore to operate would create a “slippery slope” to approving the charters of “schools by all faiths,” even those he alleges “most Oklahomans would consider reprehensible and unworthy of public funding.” Drummond’s petition singles out Islam, alleging that approving St. Isidore’s charter will lead to a “reckoning” that “will require the State to permit extreme sects of the Muslim faith to establish a taxpayer-funded public charter school teaching Sharia Law.”

“The Attorney General’s statements betray an animus toward religious minorities that the Supreme Court has long found impermissible from a state actor,” said Dean McGee, Educational Freedom Attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “We support parents’ right to choose whatever education is best for their children—including education by religious schools—and urge the Supreme Court to reject the Attorney General’s petition.”

“The Attorney General’s attacks on religious minorities and educational choice in Oklahoma are not only legally wrong, but also misrepresent the practical impact of expanding school choice,” said Howard Slugh, General Counsel for the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty. “Families should have a broad range of options to choose the best educational path for their needs—whether they’re Jews, Catholics, Sikhs, Muslims, atheists, or members of any other religious group. Ultimately, the only idea that religious people should find ‘reprehensible’ is the Attorney General’s notion that Oklahomans would harbor such a hostile view of their neighbors.”

Jason Reese, an Oklahoma City-based attorney, served as local counsel for the submission to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The Liberty Justice Center’s amicus brief is available here.


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