Oklahoma Supreme Court rules publicly funded religious charter school is unconstitutional

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma board’s approval of what would be the nation’s first publicly funded religious school is unconstitutional and must be rescinded, the state Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

The high court determined the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board’s 3-2 vote last year to approve the application by the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma for the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School violates both the Oklahoma and U.S. constitutions, as well as state law.

“Under Oklahoma law, a charter school is a public school,” the court wrote. “As such, a charter school must be nonsectarian.

“However, St. Isidore will evangelize the Catholic school curriculum while sponsored by the state.”

The online public charter school would have been open to students across the state in kindergarten through grade 12, and part of its mission would have been to evangelize its students in the Catholic faith.

The case is being closely watched because supporters of the school believe recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have indicated the court is more open to public funds going to religious entities.

A group of parents, faith leaders and a public education nonprofit sued to stop the establishment of the school.

Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Ryan Walters supported the board’s approval of the school.

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