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Drummond withdraws opinion enabling state-funded religious schools

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 23, 2023) –Attorney General Gentner Drummond today withdrew an opinion issued by his predecessor, stating that the Opinion “misuses the concept of religious liberty by employing it as a means to justify state-funded religion.”

In one of his final acts in office, then-Attorney General John O’Connor issued the Dec. 1, 2022, opinion in response to a request by Rebecca Wilkinson, the executive director of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board (SVCSB). Drummond notified Ms. Wilkinson of his decision to withdraw the Opinion in a letter to her, with board members of the SVCSB included in the communication.

“Religious liberty is one of our most fundamental freedoms,” Drummond wrote. “It allows us to worship according to our faith, and to be free from any duty that may conflict with our faith. The Opinion as issued by my predecessor misuses the concept of religious liberty by employing it as a means to justify state-funded religion.”

He noted in the letter that charter schools are public schools that receive public funding, a position that is consistent with current state law and the Oklahoma Constitution. Drummond said the former Attorney General’s Opinion incorrectly concluded that Oklahoma taxpayer dollars could be tapped to fund religious charter schools.

As the Statewide Virtual Charter Board is currently considering an application for a religious virtual charter school, Drummond cautioned that approval of an application that is overtly religious in its teachings and operations will set a precarious precedent.

“While many Oklahomans undoubtedly support charter schools sponsored by various Christian faiths, the precedent created by approval of the … application will compel approval of similar applications by all faiths,” Drummond wrote. “I doubt most Oklahomans would want their tax dollars to fund a religious school whose tenets are diametrically opposed to their own faith. Unfortunately, the approval of a charter school by one faith will compel the approval of charter schools by all faiths, even those most Oklahomans would consider reprehensible and unworthy of public funding.”

The Attorney General's letter to Ms. Wilkinson can be read at .