Oklahoma parents, religious leaders and education group are suing to stop the first public religious school in the United States

Oklahoma parents, religious leaders and education group are suing to stop the first public religious school in the United States

Oklahoma City (AP) — A group of parents, religious leaders and a public education nonprofit filed a lawsuit Monday to prevent Oklahoma City from creating and funding what would be the nation’s first public religious school.

The suit, filed in Oklahoma District Court, seeks to prevent taxpayer money from going to St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board Voted 3-2 last month Granting the application of the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to establish the school, the board and its members were among the defendants.

The vote came despite a warning by Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general that such a school would violate both state law and the Oklahoma constitution.

Rev. Lori Walk, senior minister at the Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said she joined the lawsuit because she believes so strongly in religious freedom.

“Establishing a religious public school is not religious freedom,” Wolkey said. “Our churches already have the religious freedom to start our own schools if we choose to do so. Parents already have the freedom to send their children to those religious schools. But when we link religious schools to the government…we put the religious freedom of all of us at risk.”

The approval of a publicly funded seminary is the latest in a series of actions by conservative-led states that include efforts to teach the Bible in public schools, and to ban books and lessons about race, sexual orientation and gender identity, said Rachel Laser, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is among several groups representing the plaintiffs in the case.

“We are witnessing an all-out assault on the separation of church and state and public education, and public religious schools are the next frontier,” Laser said.

Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin State earlier this year signed into law a bill that would Giving in-state parents a tax incentive To send their children to private schools, including religious schools.

In its application to run the charter school, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma said, “The Catholic school participates in the Church’s missionary mission and is the privileged environment in which Christian education takes place.”

Rebecca Wilkinson, executive director of the statewide Virtual School Board, said in an email to The Associated Press that the board was not formally notified of the lawsuit Monday afternoon and that the agency would not comment on the pending litigation.

A legal challenge to the approval of the council’s request was expected, said Brett Farley, executive director of the Oklahoma Catholic Conference.

“The news of the lawsuit from these organizations was not surprising because they indicated early in the process their intentions to litigate,” Farley said in a text message to the AP. “We remain confident that the Oklahoma court will eventually agree with the US Supreme Court’s opinion in favor of religious freedom.”

State, who previously hailed the board’s decision as “a victory for religious freedom and education freedom,” reiterated that stance on Monday.

“To open up more school options, I’m all for it,” said Stitt.

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