Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement in response to Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s announcement today that he’s withdrawing the previous AG’s incorrect opinion that the state should allow public charter schools to indoctrinate students in religion, a violation of the separation of church and state:
“It’s hard to think of a clearer example of violating the religious freedom of Oklahoma taxpayers and public-school families than if Oklahoma established the nation’s first religious public charter school. The government should not force anyone to fund religion. And no public-school family should fear their child will be required by charter schools to take religious classes, pray or attend chapel guided by a religion that isn’t their own. In a country built on the principle of separation of church and state, public schools must never be allowed to become Sunday schools.
“We appreciate that Attorney General Drummond upheld the law, which clearly defines charter schools as public schools that must provide secular education and be open to all students. This action not only protects the religious freedom of taxpayers, parents, and students; it also protects religious institutions from government interference that accompanies public funding. We urge the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to follow these legal principles as well.”
Rev. Dr. Lori Allen Walke: “Our Attorney General just advanced true religious freedom for every Oklahoman.”
The Rev. Dr. Lori Allen Walke, senior minister at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City and a member of AU’s Faith Advisory Council, said: “Our Attorney General just advanced true religious freedom for every Oklahoman. If religion and religious liberty are to flourish, we must have a strong separation between church and state. As a faith leader, I understand that when the state taxes my fellow Oklahomans of any faith or none to fund houses of worship and religious schools, it has violated the conscience and religious freedom of all of us. Thank you, Attorney General Drummond.”
Americans United Provided Detailed Legal Analysis To Oklahoma Officials
In letters, memos and in-person testimony, Americans United provided detailed legal analysis to the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board explaining why former attorney general John O’Connor’s opinion that the state should allow public charter schools to teach religious curricula was wrong and was contrary to the U.S. Constitution, the Oklahoma Constitution and the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act.
AU has urged the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to reject the pending application from the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa to create the nation’s first religious public charter school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School.
- Feb. 14 testimony from AU Senior Litigation Counsel Kenneth Upton, a native of Oklahoma and an Oklahoma City University School of Law alum
- AU’s Feb. 10 letter regarding the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s application
- AU’s Jan. 31 letter refuting the former AG’s opinion
- AU’s Jan. 31 legal analysis refuting the former AG’s opinion
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.
Associate Vice President of Communications