The battle over the legality of a Catholic charter school continues in Oklahoma, as top education officials in its support recently filed for the pending lawsuit to be dismissed.
St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School is the first religious charter school to receive approval for public funding, but is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom From Religion Foundation and Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee.
Critics of the charter, including state Attorney General Gentner Drummond, argue a religious school shouldn’t receive state funds.
However, St. Isidore, along with the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), have filed a motion asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed in light of recent court cases supporting religious liberty.
“In the last six years, the United States Supreme Court has thrice told a state that its practice of excluding religious organizations from public benefits is ‘odious’ to the United States Constitution,” read a press release from State Superintendent Ryan Walters. “Due to these binding precedents, the government cannot exclude religious institutions from generally available public benefits merely because of their religious nature.”
The three Supreme Court cases in question are Carson v. Makin, Espinoza v. Montana and Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, all of which affirmed that religious institutions cannot be excluded from public funding solely because of their religious nature.
OSDE’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit cites 35 federal cases, including the three referenced by Walters, arguing that Oklahoma would be violating the constitution by denying St. Isidore public funds.
It also argues that receiving state funding does not make St. Isidore a state actor, meaning the school can be religious without violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
St. Isidore has also filed its own motion to dismiss, alleging the plaintiffs’ claims don’t pass legal muster.
The case is scheduled for a hearing on Dec. 21. St. Isidore plans to start classes in August 2024.