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This week, Oklahoma’s Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted to approve the country’s first ever religious charter school, St. Isidore of Seville. Since charter schools are a type of publicly funded school that are independently managed, this Catholic school will be funded entirely by taxpayer dollars.
The establishment of this school raises major concerns over issues of separation of church and state and a high-profile legal fight is expected. Americans United for Separation of Church and State have begun preparing a lawsuit in response to the approval. “It’s hard to think of a clearer violation of the religious freedom of Oklahoma taxpayers and public-school families than the state establishing the nation’s first religious public charter school,” CEO Rachel Laser said. “In a country built on the principle of separation of church and state, public schools must never be allowed to become Sunday schools.”
The separation of church and state is not only a religious issue, but a feminist issue as well. Religious extremists have been at the forefront of the attacks on reproductive freedoms and LGBTQ rights, pushing for their beliefs to become the accepted norm. Religion cannot be used to deny any individual rights; the Founding Fathers ensured that the First Amendment details freedoms concerning religion and expression to avoid this in particular.
Private religious schools are able to create fear-based curriculums to include religiously based misinformation that furthers their missions, often centered around science, gender and sexuality, race, bodily autonomy, or any topic they deem blasphemous. Phyllis Schlafly publicized this belief in the 1970s with her claim that “sexuality education encouraged sexual activity, promoted teenage pregnancy, advocated abortion, and lacked a moral base.” Numerous studies have proven these assertions to be false. Abstinence-only education is especially dangerous for students as they are ineffective in reducing teen pregnancy and STI rates, and leave young people without the information they need to safely and consensually engage in sexual activity. This type of education should not be allowed in government funded school systems.
The Feminist Majority stands with Americans United for Separation of Church and State in their legal battle against this religious charter school and strongly supports public education that is inclusive and free of religious leanings.