Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond rescinded his predecessor’s decision to allow publicly funded religious charter schools Thursday, according to a letter sent to the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board (SWCSB).
In December 2022, former state Attorney General John O’Connor declared that charters for religious schools were legal in the state of Oklahoma, according to his opinion. Nearly three months later, Drummond repealed O’Connor’s order in a letter to Rebecca Wilkinson, executive director of SWCSB, this week. (RELATED: Biden Admin Looking To Remove Religious Student Groups’ Protections On Campus)
In the two-page opinion, Drummond calls the law regarding charter schools as state actors “unsettled,” noting that he would like the Supreme Court to weigh in at some point, but that he could not “violate the Oklahoma Constitution.”
“As a strong supporter of religious liberty, I am obligated to note that [O’Connor’s] Opinion does nothing to advance that worthy cause,” Drummond wrote. “The Opinion, as issued by my predecessor, misuses the concept of religious liberty by employing it as a means to justify state-funded religion.”
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa applied to the SWCSB for charter approval, according to ReimaginED, a communication site for Step Up For Students, a Florida nonprofit “scholarship funding organization.” SWCSB held a meeting earlier this month to discuss the proposal and allow the applicants to answer the board’s questions.
“I think it may become a reality in Oklahoma in the short term, although I suspect that it will be challenged in court,” Shawn Peterson, president of Catholic Education Partners, told ReimaginED.
Drummond’s decision, however, further argued that approving SWCSB’s application would create a “slippery slope” forcing the state to approve charters for a multitude of religions whose beliefs Christians might be “diametrically opposed to,” according to the letter.
“Unfortunately, the approval of a charter school by one faith would compel the approval of charter schools by all faiths, even most Oklahomans would consider reprehensible and unworthy of public funding,” Drummond said.
Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt had expressed support for religious charter schools after O’Connor released his opinion, according to a press statement.
“Attorney General John O’Connor’s opinion rightfully defends parents, education freedom, and religious liberty in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “Ultimately, government takes a backseat to parents who get to determine the best learning environment for their child.”
SWCSB has until April to decide whether or not to approve the application, according to Oklahoma Watch.
Drummond, SWCSB, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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