Oklahoma City, OK—On behalf of the Oklahoma Department of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters, First Liberty Institute and the law firm Spencer Fane LLP filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Oklahoma Charter School Board’s approval of St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School for inclusion as a charter-school.
You can read the motion here.
AJ Ferate, Of Counsel at Spencer Fane said, “The Plaintiffs in this case filed a premature lawsuit using claims that do not exist under Oklahoma law.”
“It is perplexing that the ACLU and others filed a lawsuit against Superintendent Walters and the State Board of Education demanding that they engage in religious discrimination when neither has taken any action related to the charter school,” added Hiram Sasser, Executive General Counsel at First Liberty Institute.
By 2021, there were thirty-one charter schools in Oklahoma, including six fully virtual charter schools that enrolled 43,324 students. Charter schools enjoy substantial flexibility in operations and “may offer a curriculum which emphasizes a specific learning philosophy or style or certain subject areas . . . .” Charter schools primarily remain accountable to their public sponsor and governing boards but must be accredited by the Department of Education, which ensures compliance with federal and state law. Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted to approve the application of St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Catholic Charter School, an online public school that would be administered by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa. Several organizations then sued on behalf of various plaintiffs.
The motion reads, “In the last six years, the United States Supreme Court has thrice told a state that its practice of excluding religious organizations from public benefits is “odious” to the United States Constitution. Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, 582 U.S. 449, 467 (2017) (Missouri), Espinoza v. Mont. Dep’t of Revenue, 140 S. Ct. 2246, 2263 (2020) (Montana); Carson v. Makin, 142 S. Ct. 1987 (2022) (Maine). In this case, Plaintiffs ask the Court to require the Department to engage in the exact behavior that the Supreme Court told Missouri, Montana, and Maine was unconstitutional. This Court should reject that request and uphold the Constitutions and laws of the United States and Oklahoma.”
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First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
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