August 14, 2023

Samuel Perry: How Oklahoma Became Ground Zero in the War Over Church-State Separation

Published by

Florida may get the big share of press, but Oklahoma is where the wall between church and state is facing its next big challenge.

And on Monday, July 31st, return shots were fired. A group of 10 plaintiffs including clergy, public school parents, and public education advocates filed a lawsuit against state officials and organizations for approving St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School as the nation’s first publicly-funded religious charter school.

The central concern in the case of St. Isidore is that taxpayer dollars would go to fund a school that is overtly sectarian with religious education as a goal. In its charter school application, St. Isidore plans to “provide Christ-centered Catholic formation” and will function “as a genuine instrument of the church” as a place of “evangelization.” They would also divert funds away from Oklahoma public schools, already ranking near the bottom of the country in education spending.

St. Isidore is just one example of the way Oklahoma education officials and organizations are challenging the very idea of church-state separation. Shortly after his re-election in November 2022, Governor Kevin Stitt prayed on the Capitol steps, claiming every inch of Oklahoma for Jesus, asking God the Father that he would “have his way” with the education system.

Also winning office last November, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters has actively cultivated a brand as a culture warrior, regularly posting video selfies from his car, as well as appearing on Fox News and evangelical talk shows like Washington Watch with Tony Perkins, almost always on the theme of “woke indoctrination,” teachers unions, the Biden administration, and the importance of America’s Christian heritage.

During his short tenure thus far, Walters has endorsed recommendations to hang the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom, require that students be given a full minute before school for prayer or silent reflection, to teach the Bible, and to train all history teachers in Oklahoma public schools using curriculum from Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian private school in Michigan.

But the stakes in the St. Isidore case are certainly larger than one charter school. They’re even larger than Oklahoma. “We’re bringing today’s lawsuit to protect the religious freedom of Oklahoma public school families and taxpayers, and to stop Christian Nationalists from taking over our public schools across the nation.” explained Rachel Laser, President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. In their online announcement for the lawsuit, Americans United warned “soon states like this will appear around the country.”

Read the full piece here. 

Share this:

Readers wishing to comment on the content are encouraged to do so via the link to the original post.

Find the original post here:

View original post