Press Release

Scholarship Program for Disabled Children Gets Second Chance Program remains intact during appeal

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON, DC– Tulsa district court judge Rebecca Nightingale has issued an order allowing the “Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act” to remain intact while her decision ruling that the program is unconstitutional is being appealed.

“We are pleased the students will continue learning in an environment that can address their needs,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel with Becket Law.  “However, it is unfortunate that the school districts decided to spend their money suing the families of disabled students instead of supporting opportunities for students with disabilities to succeed.  It’s like suing grandma because she signed up for Medicare.”

In 2010, the Oklahoma State Legislature passed the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program Act, which gave certain students with disabilities the right to receive a scholarship from the State of Oklahoma to facilitate their attendance in a participating nonpublic school.

“It was a win-win situation,” said Baxter. “The scholarships meet pressing needs without imposing additional costs on the state.”

However, in 2011, the Jenks and Union school districts sued the families of disabled children for participating in the program, claiming that the scholarships violated the Oklahoma Blaine Amendment by allowing public dollars to go to religious schools.  On March 27, 2012, Judge Nightingale ruled for the school districts and declared the program unconstitutional.

“This decision is unprecedented,” said Baxter. “The Oklahoma Supreme court has been clear for decades that the State can contract with private entities—including religiously-affiliated entities—to provide services the State would otherwise provide directly. What the State cannot do is exclude some service providers simply because they are religiously affiliated, which is what the district court’s ruling would lead to.”

Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. Becket has a 17-year history of defending religious liberty for people of all faiths. Its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law, and they recently won a 9-0 victory against the federal government at the U.S. Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC.

 For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at or call 202.349.7224.


 Additional Information: 

Case Page

Judge’s Order Staying Judgment Pending Appeal (April 17, 2012)

Judge’s Entry of Judgment (April 16, 2012)