On Thursday, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond repealed his predecessor's decision to allow taxpayer-funded religious charter schools, claiming that the opinion created a "slippery slope" and violated the state's constitution, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported.
Former state Attorney General John O'Connor issued an opinion in December 2022 declaring that charters for religious schools are legal, following an application for charter approval from St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School before the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.
O'Connor argued that the state's non-sectarian and non-religious requirements for charter schools likely violate the First Amendment and should not be enforced.
At the time of O'Connor's decision, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt expressed support, noting that the opinion "rightfully defends parents, education freedom, and religious liberty in Oklahoma."
In a recent letter to SVCSB Executive Director Rebecca Wilkinson, Drummond explained that he would repeal his predecessor's decision.
Drummond admitted that the law is "unsettled" regarding whether charter schools are considered state actors. In the two-page letter to SVCSB's executive director, Drummond noted that he is hopeful the Supreme Court will "definitively rule on this unsettled issue next term."
Therefore, since charter schools might be considered state actors, Drummond explained it would be against the state's constitution to permit faith-based charters.
He wrote, "Without binding precedent definitively addressing whether charter schools are state actors, this office is not currently comfortable advising your board members to violate the Oklahoma Constitution's clear directive: 'Provisions shall be made for the establishment and maintenance of a system of public schools, which shall be open to all the children of the state and free from sectarian control …'"
Drummond added that he is "a strong supporter of religious liberty" but believes O'Connor's decision "does nothing to advance that worthy cause."
"The Opinion, as issued by my predecessor, misuses the concept of religious liberty by employing it as a means to justify state-funded religion," Drummond claimed.
He argued that O'Connor's opinion could "create a slippery slope, " leading to taxpayers funding "a religious school whose tenets are diametrically opposed to their own faith."
"While many Oklahomans undoubtedly support charter schools sponsored by various Christian faiths, the precedent created by approval of the SISCVS application will compel approval of similar applications by all faith," Drummond wrote. "Unfortunately, the approval of a charter school by one faith will compel the approval of charter schools by all faiths, even those most Oklahomans would consider reprehensible and unworthy of public funding."
According to Oklahoma Watch, the school board has until late April to approve or deny the application.
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