No taxation for indoctrination

If Stitt and Walters have their way, the state of Oklahoma will be funding the first public religious charter school in the United States.

When Oklahoma makes national news, it is often an embarrassment. Now it is also


The state’s virtual charter school board has approved on a 3-2 vote (thanks to a

last-minute appointment by Gov. Kevin Stitt that guaranteed passage), to establish the first

publicly-funded religious charter school in the United States. Gov. Stitt and Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction/Christian Nationalist Ryan Walters, who believes that the Bible should be taught in schools alongside the U.S. Constitution and The Federalist Papers, both believe deeply in the myth that God has been kicked out of our schools by the “woke mob.”

As for reading the Bible in schools, that might backfire, since The Good Book embraces

slavery from start to finish. But reading the Constitution is a very good idea. Perhaps some

very bright kid will ask why the First Amendment is negotiable but the Second is not. Where

are the true conservatives who love the Constitution when you need them? Same place they

are when “state’s rights” are not working for them. This is a profoundly un-American and idea.

A religious public school is a constitutional oxymoron.

Since 1791, these words have separated church and state to the lasting benefit of both:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free

exercise thereof.” Which part of this do people not understand? The government cannot

establish any one religion, whether by favoritism or funding, nor can it keep any law-abiding

religious group from freely worshiping as it chooses—or starting a religious school if it

chooses, so long as taxpayers are not forced to pay for it.

The founding fathers had good reason to put this amendment at the top of the list. They

were running from centuries of blood-soaked church and state collusion, and they knew better

than to let it all start over again in America. The First Amendment has given America more

religious freedom and less religious violence than any nation on earth. The genius of this “wall”

between church and state is that all of us not only have freedom of religion, but we also have

freedom from religion.

But perhaps not in Oklahoma anymore, at least not if the legal challenges to this

profoundly unconstitutional act do not overturn it. Let’s be clear — the whole idea is to get

the case to the Supreme Court, where six of the nine justices are Roman Catholic. Everyone in

Oklahoma, regardless of their religious beliefs, or no religious beliefs, will be forced to pay for

daily religious indoctrination that in many cases, and for many people, is deeply offensive.

The new online school is called St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School (named after the

patron saint of the internet). It will be run by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the

Diocese of Tulsa. Catholic doctrine will be, in the words of the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, “baked into everything we do.” Every subject, from math and science to history and literature, will be offered through the prism of the world’s largest, and most unaccountable religious institution.

So, what exactly is “Catholic” math? Perhaps the Trinitarian fallacy of one in three and

three in one? What is Catholic science? Is it the tragedy of having arrested Galileo for being a

real scientist and then waiting 359 years to apologize to him for being right? As for Catholic history, will that include lessons about the Crusades and the Inquisition, including the

disastrous and deadly Children’s Crusade led by a 12-year-old who had been inspired by his

divine vision to take other children on a doomed quest to rid Jerusalem of Muslims? As for Catholic literature, will that include books that tell the truth about our LGBTQ+

sisters and brothers, or will the shelves be monitored by Catholic Family Radio? As for teaching morals, it is difficult, if not impossible, to forget that this is the religious institution whose priests abused tens of thousands of children and then lied about it. When it came down to what was more important, protecting the institution or protecting the children, they made a

profoundly immoral choice—I daresay an evil one.

Catholics have every right to start a new school and teach what they believe to the children who choose to go to their schools. This is religious freedom. Just like private Protestant schools can teach that Darwin was the devil, or that gay kids will go to hell. But the rest of us should never, ever be required to pay for it. That is taxation for indoctrination. That does not expand religious freedom. It is the beginning of the end of it.

Oklahoma must not be allowed to open the floodgates of taxpayer supported religion. That ends, as it always has, in rebellion and violence. If you are a true patriot, a true follower of

the Constitution, and person of faith who knows what happens when the government gets into

the religion business, then do not sit this one out, or history will judge us harshly. This is the

First Amendment, for God’s sake!

The Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers is pastor of First Congregational Church UCC in Norman and retired senior minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City. He is currently Professor of Public Speaking, and Distinguished Professor of Social Justice Emeritus in the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma City University, and the author of eight books on religion and American culture, the most recent of which is, Saving God from Religion: A Minister’s Search for Faith in a Skeptical Age.


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