In Education

Nation’s First-Ever Religious Charter School Denied By State

The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board (OSVCSB) voted on Tuesday to deny an application by a Catholic church to create a virtual religious charter school, according to a recording of the meeting.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa’s application to create the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School would allow taxpayer funding to be used to pay for a religious charter and prompted a heated debate between elected officials and parents about the constitutional ramifications of such a decision. Despite this, the OSVCSB voted unanimously to reject the application, the first in the state.

Several individuals spoke ahead of the vote during the board meeting, all of which argued against the proposal, citing concerns about its constitutionality and the separation of church and state. One individual who identified herself as a pastor said that she supported the right to abstain from religion as much as the right to adhere to one’s religion.

Another commenter named Shawn Cummings said that as a Catholic himself he could not condone the measure and worried about the long-term impact the decision would have.

“Where are the guardrails?” Cummings asked the board. “I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, we had a child molestation ring of priests up there for almost thirty years. It got moved around from one school to another. Where are your guardrails?”

The application had received support from Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, saying that the “government takes a backseat to parents who get to determine the best learning environment for their child,” according to a press release. Former Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor issued an opinion in December 2022 supporting the right to religious charter schools but the state’s current attorney general, Gentner Drummond, rescinded his predecessor’s support last month.

“Unfortunately, the approval of a charter school by one faith would compel the approval of charter schools by all faiths, even most Oklahomans would consider reprehensible and unworthy of public funding,” Drummond said.

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

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