S5, Ep. 16: The trouble with *religious* charter schools

Amanda and Holly share why the idea of a “religious charter school” is an oxymoron.

Feb 15, 2024

There is a novel – and concerning – development in public education and the relationship between the institutions of church and state: Oklahoma and Guam have proposed religious charter schools. Litigation has already started. But, what is a religious charter school, and why is the idea such a problem? Amanda Tyler and Holly Hollman say they are illegal and that they challenge some basic assumptions.

Segment 1 (starting at 00:38): What are religious charter schools, and what’s the problem?

Holly and Amanda discussed the trouble with school vouchers in episode 8 and episode 9 of this season. 

In an order on his way out the door, former Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor issued an opinion that said religious charter schools were ok, but then new Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond reversed that guidance. Read Don Byrd’s article for BJC’s website about the Oklahoma and Guam charter schools: Guam joins Oklahoma in approving government-funded religious charter schools after legislature overrides governor’s veto


Segment 2 (starting at 12:39): The lawsuits in Oklahoma trying to stop this action

You can download the petition for the lawsuit by Oklahoma Attorney General Genter Drummond in the Oklahoma Supreme Court at this link on the website of the Oklahoma State Courts Network.

The lawsuit brought by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and others is called OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. Read the complaint and learn more on the websites of the ACLU and of Americans United. OKPLAC is the “Oklahoma Parent Legislative Advocacy Coalition.” When the lawsuit was filed in 2023, it stood for “Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee,” but the acronym changed in late 2023.


Segment 3 (starting at 18:43): State and constitutional questions about charter schools

Visit this resource from the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about charter schools.

The trinity of recent Supreme Court cases mentioned were:
Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (2017)
Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue (2020)
Carson v. Makin (2022)

Respecting Religion is made possible by BJC’s generous donors. You can support these conversations with a gift to BJC.

Transcript: Season 5, Episode 16:  The trouble with *religious* charter schools (some parts of this transcript have been edited for clarity)


Segment 1: What are religious charter schools, and what’s the problem? (starting at 00:23)

AMANDA: Welcome to Respecting Religion, a BJC podcast  series where we look at religion, the law, and what’s at stake for faith freedom today. I’m Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC.

HOLLY: And I’m general counsel Holly Hollman. Today we’re discussing a novel and very concerning development in public education and the relationship between the institutions of church and state, and that is the decision of lawmakers in Oklahoma and Guam to allow religious charter schools. Not surprisingly, it is now also a topic for litigation.

AMANDA: Well, hi, Holly. I’m excited to talk about this novel and pretty complicated topic with you. But first I want to say, it’s great to be back podcasting with you —

HOLLY: Yeah. Welcome back!

AMANDA: — after a couple of weeks off, and you did a fantastic job as an interviewer on our podcast for the last two episodes, so if listeners have not heard those two episodes, I encourage you to go back and listen to them soon.

HOLLY: Thanks, Amanda. I’m glad you’re back and look forward to our conversation today.

AMANDA: Well, you’re right that this really is — when it comes to religion and the law, this really is a concerning development that we now have these religious charter schools which are public schools. And we just want to be clear from the beginning that religious charter schools are not legal.

HOLLY: Yes. These proposals are bad news for us, bad news, I think, for the public, and I am, as you said, not surprised that they’re going to be litigated, and we’ll be watching them very closely. And that is absolutely our view, that they are not legal.

As we frequently discuss, there have been significant shifts in case law regarding religion and its relationship to government, particularly at the U.S. Supreme Court. But the U.S. Constitution’s religious freedom protections do not allow for the direct public funding of religious education in our public schools.

Given the changes at the Court and the make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court right now, we don’t take for granted that this Court will agree with us, as we talk about this matter today, you know, if the issue makes its way up to the Supreme Court. That said, this is a different kind of dispute than we’ve seen the Court address so far.

AMANDA: That’s right. And, of course, there are some controversies involving state law that make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, but we are at the very early stages of this litigation, and it’s important that we understand that the legality of religious charter schools is an issue that comes under state law and particularly in the cases that we’re going to focus on today, an issue of the law of the state of Oklahoma.

HOLLY: Yeah. Before we talk about Oklahoma, we should note that because charter schools are entities that are formed and governed under state law, there are a lot of variations on how they operate, and I imagine that our listeners across the country will be thinking about what they’ve experienced in their own state.

But as we note that there are these different kinds of charter schools and different laws that govern, depending on the jurisdiction. We should start with a short definition — we’ll talk about it a little bit more as we continue the conversation, but a short definition for charter schools might be one that we saw in the publication Education Week that says, “A charter school is a tuition-free school of choice that is publicly funded but independently run.” So “tuition-free,” meaning it’s, you know, public funding, and “school of choice,” meaning it’s not your neighborhood school. It’s not necessarily the school that your kids would go to based upon your address.

AMANDA: That’s right. And charter schools, as you note, are becoming increasingly popular in a lot of jurisdictions across the country. Now that I’m in Texas, I see different public charters here. In fact, I don’t even know if you know this, Holly, but my brother is a teacher at a public charter school, so I have some understanding, and he had taught at a public school prior to that.

And I think from an educational standpoint, they’re often quite similar and that families have the choice. They can send their kids to the neighborhood public school or another public school that might be a magnet, or they can send them to one of these charter schools, these charter schools that are often run by private organizations but still have to comply with regulations and with standards that the public schools do as well.

HOLLY: And as we’ve often talked about, BJC is a strong supporter of public schools. We are, Amanda, and we’ve talked about that on Respecting Religion before. We are supporters of public schools as parents — you and I both are — and as citizens of our respective cities where we live and of course, as religious liberty advocates.

And as religious liberty advocates, we talk about public schools offering a great way to understand religious liberty and how we can, under our system of laws, provide religious freedom for all and ensure that the government does not advance or interfere with religion. And, of course, at BJC we support the principle that public funds should fund public schools.

AMANDA: And today’s topic for our conversation challenges some basic assumptions. We at BJC affirm the right of parents to choose a religious education for their children, but we oppose using taxpayer funds to support religious teachings. We think that teaching of religion should be funded by voluntary contributions, not through compulsory taxation.

And our conversation today may spur further thinking or conversation about the relationship between charter schools and school vouchers or so-called “school choice” programs. And earlier this season, Holly, we explored school voucher programs in two different episodes, episodes 8 and 9 in our podcast feed, and we’re not going to rehash all those conversations. You can go back and listen to them if you missed them.

But in a nutshell, we talked about the way that school voucher programs divert taxpayer money to religious schools. The term “school voucher” is sort of a catch-all term for many different iterations, and sometimes the term is used for programs for tuition tax credits or education savings accounts.

But generally when we say “vouchers,” we’re talking about public money — that’s taxpayer money — that is being used for elementary or secondary education that is not performed by a public school, and so it is really distinct, though related, to the conversation we’re having today about these public charter schools.

HOLLY: Yeah. And it can be kind of complicated. I think that important distinction is between what is known as, quote, “school choice programs” and what we learned last year that Oklahoma was proposing, and that’s what is really newsworthy.

And I say that, Amanda — you mentioned how in some areas, maybe in some parts of Texas, there might be a nice choice among public schools, and so as the school choice movement began, you have to look at them carefully, and is it just a choice between different kinds of public schools — again someone being able to send their kids there probably has to do with the number of slots open, and maybe there’s a kind of lottery system or what not.

But it’s one thing to have a choice within a public school system and a different thing that we’ve often talked about in voucher programs that are created for choices between a public school option and a private school option. What we learned last year is that Oklahoma was proposing a really newsworthy kind of system in that it wasn’t a school choice program that would allow money to go to private schools in addition to public schools like we’ve seen before — and like we’ve discussed in earlier episodes of Respecting Religion.

What we saw in Oklahoma last year was different from other school choice programs in that it was just a flat decision to fund a religious charter school. That development was, of course, newsworthy and disturbing to us, and the system of public education and faith freedom for all that we support, so we were not surprised that that controversy was getting a lot of attention and is now proceeding as a matter of litigation. So let’s review how the case came about and its current status for our listeners, so we’ll know what to be listening for as the case develops.

AMANDA: Yeah. Not to be too cute about this, Holly, but it really began as one person’s choice, and that was the choice of outgoing Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor who issued an official opinion on his way out the door — December 1, 2022 — in which he said that in light of recent Supreme Court rulings, that religious charter schools were legal and that the Oklahoma statute requiring charter schools to be secular violated the First Amendment.

So he became a supreme court of one and issued this opinion. But pretty soon after — that opinion did not hold for long, because the new Oklahoma Attorney General, Gentner Drummond, reversed that official guidance and actually declared religious charter schools to be unconstitutional. And that’s noteworthy, and we’ll come back to it.

But this is not a partisan issue, because Gentner Drummond is an elected Republican in the state of Oklahoma. Another elected Republican in the state of Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt, announced his intention to expand school voucher programs in April of 2023, and his proposal would give funds to every Oklahoman student, increasing the amount of public funding available for private education. So, again, an expansion of a school voucher program, alongside this official opinion from the attorney general saying that religious charter schools were unconstitutional.

HOLLY: Well, and, of course, the local papers were following the story, Amanda, and we were hearing about it from our friends in Oklahoma, and we were seeing a lot of our coalition partners be alarmed by this, and we’re starting to have conversations with them. Some of the groups that have ended up litigating this matter, you know, were quick to first do what they do, to send letters to say, You can’t do this — to say, Thank you, Mr. AG, but you’ve got this wrong; we know about those Supreme Court cases, and they don’t go this far. And so we’ll get more into those cases in a little while.

It was a really fascinating political story that continued to develop over the summer, and we kind of had to catch up to what is this — what do you mean that there’s going to be a Catholic charter school? And it turns out that this was a brand new school called St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School, and the process was that the board first had to approve that as a possible charter and then later the state would contract with them.

And around this time, we also learned that this bad idea was starting to spread a little bit. We learned that Guam was likewise trying to experiment with having a religious charter school, and our friend Don Byrd was following that story, and actually a proposal that was vetoed and then the veto was overridden. So I think this idea is also proceeding on a parallel track in Guam. We’ll put a link in the show notes to that.


Segment 2: The lawsuits in Oklahoma trying to stop this action (starting at 12:39)

HOLLY: So this decision to proceed with this religious charter school has resulted in two lawsuits that are ongoing. One is by the attorney general himself. It’s really interesting, and it goes directly to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. We’ll come back to that.

But, of course, the first lawsuit was filed by a group of interested parties, really fleshing out all of the kinds of arguments that you would expect religious liberty advocates to make and others who are really interested in ensuring not only faith freedom for all, but equality with public funds.

AMANDA: I want to talk a little bit about that case, and we are going to link in our show notes to the website of the ACLU. But I’m going to summarize here for our listeners some about that particular lawsuit. So this lawsuit was brought by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Education Law Center, and Freedom From Religion Foundation.

And they all represent a group called Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee or OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. And they are assisted by some Oklahoma-based counsel in that lawsuit, and they’re — the point of this lawsuit is to show 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 this particular application of the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School back in June 2023.

And they have a number of reasons for why that approval of the application was unlawful, including because the school plans to discriminate in its policies and practices based on a number of protected categories, including religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, among others, and they argue that students could be denied admission or be subject to discipline, including expulsion, if they or their family members are LGBTQ+, if they practice a different religious faith, or if they otherwise don’t conform to certain Catholic religious beliefs.

They also argue that the school has reserved a right to discriminate against students on the basis of disability and that they have failed to show that they will protect or abide by laws that protect individuals who have disabilities. And they also say because the school plans to provide a religious education, that they would indoctrinate students into Catholic religious beliefs and that this would be unlawful when done with public funds.

HOLLY: Yeah. These nondiscrimination arguments really go to an expectation of public schools to have a set standard, you know, that all kids can come to public school without regard to these protected categories, so that’s something that is really distinct about this particular litigation on behalf of the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee and then the specific parents and citizens that are plaintiffs in that case.

And then there’s the focus that you and I would most often talk about, and that is that you’re providing public funding for religious indoctrination. The school’s application states explicitly that the school will, quote, “participate in the evangelizing mission of the Catholic Church” and will fully incorporate the church’s teaching, quote, “into every aspect of the school, including all subjects taught and all activities offered.”

And, you know, we’ve just summarized some of the concerns here, like a lot of complaints, complaint being the formal term for the proceedings that start the lawsuit. There’s a lot more to it, and we appreciate that you can find the complaint and read it yourself. You know, we’ve just tried to focus on some of the main issues, but it’s a 266-paragraph complaint. But you can skim through and see how explicit the religious education and control is that is contemplated by this novel action in Oklahoma.

In addition to all of the religious content that is contemplated, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City would have control over the school, in violation of the board regulations that require a charter school to be independent of its educational management organization.

AMANDA: So even among charter schools, this has a different mode of operating that would seem to violate the Oklahoma Charter School Act and other practices that other charter schools have to comply with. And the fact that a religious school would indoctrinate is not the novel part. The fact that a religious school would operate as a public school and continue to indoctrinate is the part that is novel and, we believe, unconstitutional and illegal under Oklahoma law.

So in this particular case, the complaint, as you noted, Holly, it is asking for certain forms of relief from the District Court of Oklahoma County, and those include blocking the school from operating as a charter school — again, it can operate as a private school but not operating as a public charter school — blocking the charter school board from entering into or implementing any contracts with St. Isidore, and finally stopping the state from funding St. Isidore directly.



Segment 3: State and constitutional questions about charter schools (starting at 18:43)

HOLLY: Well, with that summary of what plaintiffs are trying to do to stop this action, we should talk about the specific arguments that apply under Oklahoma law, again remembering that charter schools vary state to state, and so depending on what state you’re in, there may be other arguments why your state could also not have a religious charter school.

We’ll link to the U.S. Department of Education that has some information on charter schools that tells us a little bit about charter schools in general and notes that, you know, there are no religious charter schools. Again, of course, you’d know that the Department of Education would have current information on the state of the law.

AMANDA: Right. And so that’s a great resource nationwide, and now we’re going to zoom in on Oklahoma and starting with Oklahoma law. Now, Holly, you and I are not experts on Oklahoma law. We are not barred in that state, and so — but we have learned more about the particular provisions as we’ve looked into this particular issue with the Oklahoma public charter schools in order to have this conversation today.

So some of the different resources that are at play here, one is an Oklahoma state law, a statute titled 70 Article 3, Section 3-136, which states, “A charter school shall be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations.” So, you know, just reading that statute on its face, it is surprising that this public school charter board would approve an application for a school that, as we noted, was pretty boldly sectarian in its operation and in its desired operation of this particular school.

HOLLY: Exactly. That statute goes on to say that a sponsor may not authorize a charter school or program that is affiliated with a nonpublic sectarian school or religious institution. And, yeah. As you said, you know, you don’t have to be an Oklahoma lawyer, you don’t have to be even a lawyer to see that this seems problematic.

But this is a statute that’s been on the books for a while, and so I think the board has taken a big risk or taken a big leap into this, to try to change our expectations of what public schools can do and what the Court might allow.

But I agree. On its face, this is a pretty strong case for the attorney general and the parents and organization that are challenging this action by the state, because it appears that the charter is a direct violation of that statute.

AMANDA: And then if that statute weren’t enough, there’s also a provision of the Oklahoma constitution, and it’s the state constitution, Article 1, Section 5, which provides, “Provisions shall be made for the establishment and maintenance of a system of public schools which shall be open to all of the children of the state and free from sectarian control.” And so, again, this article of the constitution of Oklahoma establishes an obligation for the state government to provide and maintain a public education, which is defined as one that is open to all and free from sectarian control.

HOLLY: Yeah. That’s one of the most explicitly applicable provisions of the Oklahoma constitution. But what I saw in reviewing the complaint is that there are several provisions that support the plaintiffs, the people who are bringing this case, that support their position that this charter school is illegal, not only under state law but under several provisions of the Oklahoma constitution, that, of course, provides for a system of free public schools where all of the children of the state can be educated.

And we know that, you know, in doing so, that means you set up a public school system and you don’t expect there to be discrimination based upon religion or specifically religious indoctrination occurring that is at odds with that expectation of free public schools that serve all children.

AMANDA: Yeah. And, I mean, I think these legal provisions, both under statutory law and under constitutional law for the state of Oklahoma, are pretty clear. So it seems like the only defense that the []Diocese of Tulsa [which is also part of the Oklahoma Catholic Conference that would be over the school] has is an argument that these laws are unconstitutional. So, you know, how likely is that, Holly? Like what is that constitutional argument that’s looming? And let’s have some conversation about what we think about that argument they seem to be making between the lines here.

HOLLY: Well, one of the arguments that will be fleshed out in this case is whether or not these really are public schools. As we’ve said, charter schools are public schools, and the constitution applies to public entities, state actors, and so there’ll be some debate about whether this really is a state actor, or weirdly, you have some of the people who are behind this charter school having to make arguments that they’re not really public entities, that they are more private.

And they’re doing that, because if they can get in a space before the courts that say, Oklahoma’s already involved in sending public money to private entities, then they’re on a stronger ground to say, so what’s the problem; send it to private religious entities as well.

Of course, we’d argue that there is a material difference there, but, again, that’s something in this case that will be fleshed out further that’s, you know, an important legal argument. But the real issue, Amanda, that we’ve often talked about and that we know is looming in the distant background but not as far in the background as we wish is the federal constitutional question about what is allowed under the Establishment Clause.

And we know that this Court has not been favorably inclined towards state constitutions that they view as at odds in any way with their Free Exercise jurisprudence as is often, unfortunately, articulated just as a nondiscrimination provision, something that’s really problematic for our understanding of religious liberty that says that religion is treated differently, not for discriminatory reasons but for religious liberty reasons.

AMANDA: Yeah. And we’ve talked quite a few times, Holly, on the podcast about this trinity of cases — and not in the theological sense, but the fact that there are three of them.

HOLLY: Unholy.

AMANDA: An unholy trinity. Ironically, the first one has Trinity in the name, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer in 2017, followed by Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue in 2020, and finally Carson v. Makin in 2022. And taken together, these three cases have constituted an expansion of law when it comes to Free Exercise doctrine that has stood for the principle that once the government opens up a funding scheme in some way that applies to entities that are private entities but that are nonsectarian, that to exclude sectarian entities is somehow a discrimination against them under the Free Exercise Clause.

And so I think that the []Diocese of Tulsa in this case is, again, making this argument or will soon be making an argument that if the state of Oklahoma is funding nonsectarian, private entities through their public charter program, that they cannot then say, well, you can’t fund sectarian private entities under your public charter program.

HOLLY: Yeah. And this lawsuit will tell us how distinct these situations are. The trinity of cases that you mentioned, they all deal with state law and conflicts between arguments that were made under federal law and these state constitutional provisions that, on their face, appeared to limit what states could fund in order to avoid interference in religion, advancement of religion, all of these concerns that go back to the founding era about keeping the government out of religion.

And we think even those decisions that have been significantly undermining the importance of state constitutional provisions still should not open the door to this kind of experiment that we’re seeing in Oklahoma.

AMANDA: Well, time will tell if this argument even makes it to the Supreme Court or not. But I have the words of former Justice Breyer in my head right now when he wrote a dissenting opinion in the Carson v. Makin case that was kind of like, where’s the line. Like once you go here, you know, what kind of implication does this have for our whole system of public education?

And so if the Court takes this case and if the Court agrees with the Archdiocese here, I do think it is a further erosion on the whole system of public education and the fact that we have, for a very long time, said that that is a system that’s open to all regardless of religion.

HOLLY: Yeah. You’re reminding me of one reason we miss Justice Breyer, because I remember in these cases, he would sort of, in his Justice Breyer professor way of picking at the advocates, asking questions, he was trying to say, Why does this matter? Why does it matter? And it matters because of the language of the First Amendment, that there is some distinction protected in the federal Constitution for religion.

And so I felt like at a couple of different times in these cases, he was trying to get to that point, to say, there is a line, and that should hold. And so this case is a direct challenge to that, because we’re not talking about a choice program or a little money here, there, because it’s analogous to some money that went somewhere else. But we’re talking about just straightforward, direct government funding of a religious school. And if the Free Exercise Clause requires that, then it will be very difficult to see how No Establishment has an effect at all.

AMANDA: Well, on that note, where are we now?

HOLLY: Well, the litigation that we’ve been talking about is in the normal process of filing different motions. There was an interesting story about how a judge had to be replaced, and that’s not usual. But the judge to whom the case had been assigned had conflicts.

He actually had conflicts, it appeared, on both sides of the equation: a relationship, maybe a brother-in-law kind of relationship to some of the plaintiff’s side, but also on the other side, he had been on the board of an entity where some of these issues of nondiscrimination had been litigated before, and not only had they been litigated before so that, you know, he had a position as the chair of a board of this entity, but they had been litigated by ADF — Alliance Defending Freedom, who is also one of the groups representing the school in this case.

So the chief judge of the court system reassigned the case. The school has filed a motion to dismiss, so the court is looking at that, and of course, that’s just a first kind of procedural hurdle to get past, beyond the motion to dismiss for the case to continue.

But interestingly, Amanda, we mentioned at the top that there was a different case, too, and that is a case that is possible because of particular nuances of Oklahoma law, and that is a case brought by Gentner Drummond, the attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, that is brought against the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and all of its members. And it goes directly to the Supreme Court of the state of Oklahoma.

So the other case is working its way from the lowest courts in Oklahoma and has to go up through the system, but this case from the AG goes directly to the state supreme court, and it could be decided any day. In this separate proceeding, the issue is very direct. The filing is much shorter, because really it just sort of cuts to the point and says that the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School is an illegally state-sponsored virtual charter school.

So it’s basically saying that the contract should be void, because this is not allowed under state law. I thought this paragraph was especially clear. It says, “Aside from the extreme public interest associated with the nature of this controversy, public money being directly applied to a sectarian school, the board’s action of sponsoring St. Isidore paves the way for an onslaught of sectarian applicants for charters in violation of Oklahoma law.”

So it’s saying, this is illegal under the law, and if it’s not stopped, it’s going to pave the way for more. And so again, this procedure or this kind of case doesn’t need anything else. I think that there’s a provision that allows for oral argument, and as I understand, it was actually set for oral argument, and then that was either postponed or just eliminated. I don’t think it has to have an oral argument.

So as I understand it, the state Supreme Court of Oklahoma could decide this just on the paper submitted by Attorney General Drummond. This petition is also asking for a declaratory judgment, that this is illegal, and it’s important that it does that because the contract at issue specifies that it commences in July, on July 1, 2024.

“Therefore, St. Isidore will begin receiving public money imminently if this Court does not assume original jurisdiction and compel the board to follow its plain legal duty and rescind its illegal contract with St. Isidore.” That is paragraph 17 of this proceeding from the attorney general.

And so just in its conclusion, it says that the board’s failure to fulfill its plain legal duty to follow Oklahoma law by sponsoring this sectarian virtual charter school cannot be permitted. And the attorney general is therefore respectfully requesting the court to assume original jurisdiction of this matter. That’s here getting it before the Oklahoma Supreme Court directly. And he’s asking the court to “cancel the illegal contract for sponsorship of St. Isidore of Seville and issue a declaratory judgment consistent therewith.”

So that would end the case under this proposal. But, of course, we know that that would open the door for some to seek cert to the Supreme Court where we would find out just how far these arguments go that we’ve been discussing.

AMANDA: Yeah. And I think — and we can link to that pleading in our show notes, if people want to go and read it. Like you said, it’s not very long, and I do think it makes a strong case just to show that under a clear reading of the statute, that this was an illegal action.

And, you know, as we stated at the top, these cases and this controversy here — it really crosses traditional partisan ideological lines. I think sometimes in these issues that come before the Court, you think, okay, what’s the, quote/unquote, conservative position and what’s the liberal position. And often we see justices at the U.S. Supreme Court falling alongside some of those ideological lines.

And in this case, we really have people from more conservative areas who are also saying this was an illegal action by the Oklahoma charter school board. We, of course, have the elected Republican, the Attorney General Drummond in this case, but we also have nonpartisan groups but that sometimes have more conservative make-ups, including the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools that opposes chartering a religious public school in this case, as well as the Cato Institute, which is really a very conservative voice, often for free market principles.

And they are making strong arguments here. The charter schools are public schools, and they have policy reasons that would say to grant a charter to this religious charter school is actually something that would harm other charter schools in the process.

HOLLY: Yeah. That’s a really good point, Amanda. So even beyond the kind of separationist arguments that are so important to BJC because they are so tied to the religious freedom that we experience in our country, there are concerns from those in the sort of education reform community — people whose job is really just to think about public education and all the different ways you can address it. Many of them are saying, wait a minute; no, the charter school movement was not supposed to do this, and actually this is sort of bringing negative attention to the charter school movement.

AMANDA: And to me that means that there are not only really strong principled reasons to say “no” to public funding of religion, but there are also pragmatic reasons. And so whether you go with principle, pragmatism, or both, we think that this idea from Oklahoma is a bad one, and that we should stop it now before it spreads to other jurisdictions, more than it already has.

HOLLY: Well, that brings us to the close of this episode of Respecting Religion. Thanks for joining us. For more information on what we discussed, visit our website at RespectingReligion.org for show notes and a transcript.

AMANDA: Respecting Religion is produced by Cherilyn Guy with editorial assistance from Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons.

HOLLY: Learn more about our work at BJC, defending faith freedom for all, by visiting our website at BJConline.org.

AMANDA: We’d love to hear from you. You can send both of us an email by writing to [email protected]. We’re also on social media at BJContheHill, and you can follow me on X, which used to be called Twitter, @AmandaTylerBJC.

HOLLY: And if you enjoyed this show, share it with others. Take a moment to leave us a review or a five-star rating to help more people find us.

AMANDA: We also want to thank you for supporting this podcast. You can donate to these conversations by visiting the link in our show notes.

HOLLY: Join us on Thursdays for new conversations Respecting Religion.