OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said his office has already been in speaking with organizations considering legal action following the recent approval of a Catholic virtual charter school.
The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted Monday, 3-2, to allow the application for St. Isidore of Seville. The Catholic school would be publicly funded by Oklahoma taxpayers.
Drummond told News 4 his office planned to take legal action once the contract for the new school was filed which is the next step in the process. He said he expected other organizations to join the suit.
“Many of those agencies have been in communications with this office and are encouraged by the position that we are taking in the protection of religious liberty,” said Drummond. “This act (Monday) has the state of Oklahoma dictating tax dollars to fund a religious organization and it stands the Constitution on its head.”
Only hours before Monday’s vote, Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law expanding the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board from five people to nine. It would allow the Governor to hand pick more of its members. It also saved a seat for the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Auditor.
Democratic Representative Mickey Dollens of Oklahoma City said he voted against that bill because of its overreach.
He said Monday’s decision to allow the religious school has serious consequences.
“This is the biggest story of the week, if not the year,” said Dollens. “It sets a precedent that’s going to be copied by other GOP controlled states around the country.”
Dollens said the decision opened the door for more recognized religious institutions to ask for public dollars.
“The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, The Church of Dudeism, which is based off The Big Lebowski, these are IRS recognized religions,” saidi Dollens. “How would taxpayers feel about their money, their hard-earned tax dollars going to the Church of Bacon, where they create their own virtual online charter school?”
Drummond feared the same problem.
“We’ve taken a step down a slippery slope that will result someday in state funded Satanic schools, state funded Sharia schools,” said Drummond. “This is not what Oklahomans nor our Constitution, nor the U.S. Constitution permit.”
Drummond said taxpayers lose both ways in this situation, having to pay for the charter school and the lawsuits that will likely come with it.
“Oklahoma is a Christian-oriented state, and Catholics are a Christian denomination. And I think that’s lovely. That’s not the issue,” said Drummond. “The issue is do we preserve the integrity of our laws for future generations?”
The school is set to open in 2024 but that could change with possible lawsuits that Drummond said could end up all the way at the U.S. Supreme Court.