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The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that using public funds for a religious charter school would violate the constitution

The Oklahoma Supreme Court (Via Page Archer/Getty Images)

The Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked the approval of what would have been the first publicly funded religious charter school in the United States. This decision goes against conservatives and the state’s Republican governor, who have supported the inclusion of religious groups in public education.

The court ruled that the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board’s decision to approve the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma’s application for the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School violated the Establishment Clause. This clause prohibits the government from favoring any religion. The court also found violations of both the Oklahoma and U.S. constitutions, as well as state law.

This case is significant because some supporters of the school believed recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions indicated a more favorable stance towards public funds supporting religious institutions.

Conservative-led states have been active in pushing for changes in public schools, such as Louisiana’s requirement to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms. Other states face pressure to include Bible teachings and to restrict discussions on topics like race, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond (Via Page Archer/Getty Images)

Justice James Winchester, appointed by former Republican Governor Frank Keating, emphasized in the majority opinion that charter schools in Oklahoma are considered public schools and must be nonsectarian. He pointed out that St. Isidore planned to incorporate Catholic teachings into its curriculum while being sponsored by the state.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa expressed disappointment with the ruling and stated they are exploring legal options.

The court’s decision was supported by seven justices, with one justice partially concurring and Chief Justice John Kane IV recusing himself. Justice Dana Kuehn dissented from the majority opinion.

In her dissent, Kuehn argued that denying St. Isidore the ability to operate a charter school solely based on its religious affiliation would violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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