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MI Responds: The Nation’s First Religious Charter School?

Education Pre K-12

NEW YORK, NY – Today, the Oklahoma Virtual Charter Board will deliberate on whether to authorize St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Catholic Charter School. Coming just months after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Carson v. Makin, authorization would mark the nation’s first instance of a religious charter school.

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Nicole Stelle Garnett, who is the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, has led the constitutional and public-policy conversation on this issue, and advised the dioceses in their pursuit of authorization. She comments the following:

  • “The question of whether states may prohibit faith-based charter schools extends well beyond Oklahoma.  All 45 states that authorize charter schools require them to be secular, and most, like Oklahoma, also prohibit them from being operated by or affiliated with religious organizations. Attorney General O'Connor is right that these provisions are unconstitutional.
  • “More states ought to follow Oklahoma’s lead. Laws prohibiting faith-based charter schools unconstitutionally discriminate against religion. As Attorney General O’Connor aptly observed, a state ‘cannot enlist private organizations to promote a diversity of educational choices and then decide that any and every kind of religion is the wrong kind of diversity. This is not how the First Amendment works.’”

Whether through Manhattan Institute reportsCity Journal articles, or other public commentary, Garnett has been a prolific champion of school choice and religious liberty, and will remain at the center of this important fight. She has assisted with the efforts to secure authorization for St. Isadore Virtual Catholic Charter School from their inception. Her City Journal article "Why We Still Need Catholic Schools" elucidates why the issue is important to her.

See also Kathleen Porter-Magee’s Manhattan Institute report on the “secret sauce” of Catholic education, as well as a recent Manhattan Institute conversation on the implications of Carson v. Makin led by senior fellow Andy Smarick.

For media requests, contact press officer Nic Abouchedid at

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