OKLAHOMA CITY — Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, Education Law Center and Freedom From Religion Foundation – the organizations litigating a lawsuit to stop Oklahoma from sponsoring and funding the nation’s first religious public charter school – issued the following joint statement in response to the new lawsuit filed today by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond:
“We applaud Attorney General Drummond for his efforts to protect church-state separation and public education in Oklahoma. The law is clear: Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and serve all students. St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School plans to discriminate against students, families, and staff and indoctrinate students into one religion. Allowing a religious public charter school like St. Isidore to operate would be a sea change for our democracy.
“Our clients filed OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board because they are committed to ensuring that our public schools welcome and serve all Oklahomans. The lawsuit filed today demonstrates that AG Drummond shares this commitment.”
On July 31, 2023, AU, the ACLU, ELC and FFRF, supported by Oklahoma-based counsel Odom & Sparks PLLC and J. Douglas Mann, filed a lawsuit, OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, on behalf of nine Oklahoma residents and a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting public education in Oklahoma. The plaintiffs are faith leaders, public school parents, and public education advocates who object to their tax dollars funding a public charter school that will discriminate against students and families based on their religion and LGBTQ+ status, fail to adequately serve students with disabilities, and indoctrinate students into one religion.
The lawsuit charges that the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board violated the Oklahoma Constitution, the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, and the board’s own regulations when it approved St. Isidore’s application for charter-school sponsorship on June 5, 2023.
The plaintiffs in OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board include OKPLAC (Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee), Melissa Abdo, Krystal Bonsall, Leslie Briggs, Brenda Lené, Michele Medley, Dr. Bruce Prescott, the Rev. Dr. Mitch Randall, the Rev. Dr. Lori Walke, and Erika Wright.
The team of attorneys that represents the plaintiffs is led by Alex J. Luchenitser and Kenneth D. Upton Jr. of Americans United and includes Kalli A. Joslin of Americans United; Daniel Mach and Heather L. Weaver of the ACLU; Robert Kim, Jessica Levin, and Wendy Lecker of Education Law Center; Patrick Elliott of FFRF; Benjamin H. Odom, John H. Sparks, Michael W. Ridgeway, and Lisa M. Millington of Odom & Sparks; and J. Douglas Mann.
An overview of the OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board case can be found here.
A copy of the OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board complaint can be found here.
A media kit that includes quotes, photos and descriptions of the OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board plaintiffs can be found here.
Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.
For more than 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, the ACLU takes on the toughest civil liberties fights in pursuit of liberty and justice for all. For more information on the ACLU, visit www.aclu.org.
Education Law Center pursues justice and equity for public school students by enforcing their right to a high-quality education in safe, equitable, non-discriminatory, integrated, and well-funded learning environments. We seek to support and improve public schools as the center of communities and the foundation of a multicultural and multiracial democratic society. For more information about ELC, visit https://edlawcenter.org/.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.