The Kentucky Supreme Court recently ruled that Governor Andy Beshear’s emergency measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are legal, but nine Christian schools in the state have filed a federal lawsuit over the ban against in-person instruction in government and private K-12 schools.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that 17 Christian schools and 1,000 parents filed amicus briefs in support of the nine schools’ lawsuit. The parties allege that the governor’s order violates their free exercise of religion.
The governor’s lawyers said the state “remains at war” against COVID-19, and that the state was in the middle of “a potentially catastrophic third wave…Schools are a particularly difficult problem for public health officials.” But the Christian schools disagree that keeping children out of classrooms is warranted. An excerpt:
“No evidence whatsoever has linked any current increase in COVID cases to numbers in schools,” said the brief filed by the religious schools in U.S. District Court in Frankfort. Amicus briefs, as they are called, are often filed by those affected by court cases to which they are not parties.
“Because the religious schools believe both in the importance of their mission and the need for in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible, each of the religious schools has taken extraordinary steps and incurred significant financial expense to provide safe in-person learning during this academic year, “ the brief said.
According to one of the amicus briefs, the religious schools spent funds for safety precautions, such as plexiglass barriers, PPE, sanitation equipment, and additional desks for distancing. Some schools hired more teachers and provided more classrooms.
Danville Christian Academy and the state’s Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, also filed a lawsuit against the governor’s order banning in-person instruction, alleging that his order violates the First Amendment and the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
A federal court just put an end to the lawsuit, at least temporarily. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Gov. Beshear’s order banning in-person instruction does not violate religious freedom. From the Washington Examiner:
“While we all want to get our kids back to in-person instruction, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recognized that doing so now would endanger the health and lives of Kentucky children, educators and families,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “Almost every county is in the red zone, we have had nearly 10,000 students and staff in quarantine over the past two weeks, our hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed and we have lost nearly 1,900 fellow Kentuckians, including health care workers, a teacher and a 15-year-old student. To help save more lives and defeat this virus, we need everyone to do their part.”
Photo credit: By Matthew Beck – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0