Religious Organizations Join North Carolina Charter School in Appeal to SCOTUS

The case, originally filed by several students’ families with the help of the ACLU in 2019, challenges Charter Day School’s dress code policy.
Front Façade of the Supreme Court of the United States
Photo: Ian Hutchinson/Unsplash

(The Center Square) — Several religious organizations are joining North Carolina’s John Locke Foundation to support a Brunswick County charter school’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which centers on whether entities that partner with the government are considered “state actors.”

The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, the Religious Freedom Institute, and University of Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Clinic recently filed an amicus brief in Charter Day School v. Peltier to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the case.

North Carolina legislative leaders, the Independent Women’s Law Center, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, and Great Hearts Academies charter school organization have also filed briefs in support of Charter Day School.

The case, originally filed by several students’ families with the help of the ACLU in 2019, challenges Charter Day School’s dress code policy that requires girls to wear skirts, and an appeals court ruled the dress code unenforceable, deeming the school a “state actor” subject to the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

John Meiser, supervising attorney for Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Clinic, told The Carolina Journal the ruling could have a profound impact on how charter schools and other private groups that use public funds carry out their missions.

“The point of our brief is to say, whether a private group is determined to be a state actor or is correctly recognized as a private group matters a lot for individual freedom and the ability of private groups to participate in state programs according to their religious commitments,” he said.

“This is not just for religious groups,” Meiser said. “There are private social service groups of all kinds that have a strong interest in this case, because for instance if they were deemed state actors they could be exposed to lawsuits like this one and potentially greater liability for supposedly violating the Constitution.”

The John Locke Foundation offered the same argument in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 14.

“Treating every organization offering services to the public as a state actor ignores the complexity of charter school law and creates a dangerous precedent for other public entities,” the brief read. “Because charter schools operate independently, they are not state actors.”

Charter Day School’s appeal to the Supreme Court puts the case in context for charter schools, specifically.

“North Carolina charter schools – like many throughout the nation – build upon a critical insight: Empowering private entities to operate publicly funded schools with minimal government oversight supercharges educational innovation and expands parental choice,” according to the petition for a writ of certiorari.

Ruling charter schools state actors “undoes the central feature of charter schools by treating their private operators as the constitutional equivalent of government-run schools, squelching innovation and restricting parental choice,” it reads.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet decided whether or not to take up the case, the Journal reports.

This story was originally published by The Center Square and used with permission.

Victor Skinner
Victor Skinner is a freelance writer based in West Michigan.

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