Public Schools

Oklahoma faith leaders, education advocates & parents seek temporary injunction to block St. Isidore Catholic Virtual School from opening as a public charter school

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Faith leaders, public-education advocates, and public-school parents who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed to stop Oklahoma from sponsoring and funding the nation’s first religious public charter school today asked the District Court of Oklahoma County to issue a temporary injunction preventing St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School from opening and receiving state funds as a public charter school.

Plaintiffs: St. Isidore can’t open as public charter school while litigation is ongoing

The plaintiffs explained to the court the importance of ensuring that no taxpayer money funds St. Isidore and that the school does not open as a public charter school during the 2024-25 school year while litigation is ongoing in their case, OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, as well as in a similar lawsuit filed in the Oklahoma Supreme Court by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond. St. Isidore is, and has always been, free to open as a private religious school that taxpayers would not be forced to support.

The OKPLAC plaintiffs are represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, Education Law Center, and Freedom From Religion Foundation, as well as by Oklahoma-based counsel Odom & Sparks PLLC and J. Douglas Mann. The organizations issued the following statement:

‘Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and serve all students.’

“Oklahoma’s public schools must remain free from discrimination and religious indoctrination. And Oklahoma taxpayers, including our plaintiffs, should not be forced to financially support a religion that many of them do not share. The law is clear, and we’re hopeful the courts will soon agree: Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and serve all students.

“Nothing prevents St. Isidore from operating as a private religious school. But because St. Isidore plans to discriminate against students, families, and staff and indoctrinate students into one religion, it cannot operate as a public charter school. To protect public education, the separation of church and state, and all Oklahomans’ religious freedom, it’s crucial that the court prevent the state from funding St. Isidore and recognizing it as a public charter school until decisions have been reached in the cases brought by our plaintiffs and the attorney general.”

Background

AU, ACLU, ELC and FFRF, supported by Oklahoma-based counsel Odom & Sparks PLLC and J. Douglas Mann, represent nine Oklahomans and OKPLAC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting public education, in the lawsuit OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, filed on July 31, 2023, in the District Court of Oklahoma County. The plaintiffs object to their tax dollars funding a public charter school that will discriminate against students and families based on their religion and LGBTQ+ status, won’t commit to adequately serving students with disabilities, and will indoctrinate students into one religion.

The plaintiffs include OKPLAC (Oklahoma Parent Legislative Advocacy Coalition), Melissa Abdo, Krystal Bonsall, Leslie Briggs, Brenda Lené, Michele Medley, Dr. Bruce Prescott, the Rev. Dr. Mitch Randall, the Rev. Dr. Lori Walke, and Erika Wright.

The team of attorneys that represents the plaintiffs is led by Alex J. Luchenitser of Americans United and includes Sarah Taitz and Jenny Samuels of Americans United; Daniel Mach and Heather L. Weaver of the ACLU; Robert Kim, Jessica Levin, and Wendy Lecker of Education Law Center; Patrick Elliott of FFRF; Benjamin H. Odom, John H. Sparks, Michael W. Ridgeway, and Lisa M. Millington of Odom & Sparks; and J. Douglas Mann.

Resources

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Press Contact

Liz Hayes
Associate Vice President of Communications
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