In Education

Governor ‘Troubled’ By Oklahoma Attorney General’s Opinion On Religious Charter Schools

Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma sent a letter to Attorney General Gentner Drummond Monday indicating that he was “troubled” by a recent opinion the AG gave regarding religious charter schools.

Drummond issued an opinion late last week recanting his predecessor, John O’Conner’s, support of religious charter schools calling it “state-funded religion.” Stitt responded to Drummond’s claims Monday, arguing that by not providing religious citizens with an alternative, they may very well be forced to choose between their faith and receiving an education, according to the letter.

“You state that ‘religious liberty is one of our most fundamental freedoms’ that protects the ‘right to worship according to our faith’ and to be ‘free from any duty that conflicts with our faith,’” Stitt wrote. “But religious liberty does more. Religious liberty also precludes the government from singling out believers for disfavor or preventing them from fully participating in public life, including in public-benefits programs.”

The Oklahoma governor pointed to past precedent showing that religious organizations cannot be excluded from programs for “private organizations who help serve the public good,” according to the letter. Stitt cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makin, in which the justices determined that the state of Maine could not exclude religious schools from its tuition assistance program, noting that charter schools in Oklahoma are under similar jurisdiction.

Stitt also noted his concern about Drummond’s argument that if one religious charter was approved then all religious charters must be approved, according to the letter.

“Finally, I am troubled by the allegation that approval of the SISCVS application portends a ‘slippery slope’ that might open the door to charter schools sponsored by all faiths,” Stitt said. “Oklahomans support religious liberty for all, Christian and non-Christian alike. And so do I.”

The charter had been requested by several Catholic groups hoping to establish an online school in line with their traditional Catholic beliefs, according to reimaginED, a communication site for Step Up For Students, a Florida nonprofit “scholarship funding organization.”

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board (SWCSB) submitted the request to Drummond for his opinion earlier this month and will likely decide whether or not to approve the charter in April.

Drummond did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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