The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed an amicus brief in support of the nation’s first-ever religious charter school, which is facing a legal challenge.
Ever since Oklahoma officials approved the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School in June, the charter school has faced opposition.
But WILL says that opposing St. Isidore due to its religious nature would violate the Constitution.
“To discriminate and allocate stand funds based on religious grounds is a clear violation of rights enshrined by the Constitution in the First Amendment,” Skylar Cory, counsel at WILL, said in a statement. “Not only do choice, private, and charter schools play a vital role in our education system, but religious discrimination has no place in our country.”
WILL’s amicus brief detailed the history of the state’s anti-religious education provisions and urged the Oklahoma Supreme Court to consider U.S. Supreme Court precedent – such as Espinoza v. Montana – which overturned similarly discriminatory laws.
St. Isidore’s most notable opponent is Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who claims that a religious charter would be unconstitutional.
“There is no religious freedom in compelling Oklahomans to fund religions that may violate their own deeply held beliefs,” Drummond claimed, adding that the legal precedent of allowing a religious charter could force the state “to fund radical Muslim teachings like Sharia law.”
However, both Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Ryan Walters support St. Isidore’s constitutional right to exist.
“Nobody is forcing kids to go to any religious charter school,” Stitt told The Daily Signal. “A charter school is just another option. And if a parent chooses that that’s the best option for their kids, why is the government standing in their way?”
Phil Sechler, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and attorney for the plaintiffs, made similar arguments.
“If the state opens a program to private groups, it can’t exclude religious groups, simply because it’s religious,” said Sechler. “The more options there are for Oklahomans to get their education and schooling, the better they are.”
If the court sides with St. Isidore, it will open in the fall of 2024.