A new religious freedom lawsuit in Kentucky pits the state’s Republican Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, plus Danville Christian Academy (DCA) in Danville, Kentucky, against Democrat Governor Andrew Beshear over the governor’s latest executive order. That order closed the state’s schools, both public and private – including religious ones – because of the upsurge in COVID-19 infections.
The suit alleges that the governor’s order violates the Christian school’s free exercise of religion and involves the same overreach as the governor’s previous COVID orders earlier this year regarding in-person worship services that were struck down by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as unconstitutional.
In May, the appeals court ruled that Gov. Beshear’s lockdown orders treated religious entities such as churches differently than similarly situated secular businesses and entities that were allowed to stay open.
In this case, the school and the Attorney General argue the governor has done exactly the same thing as before.
“If it is safe for individuals to gather in venues, shop in stores and work in office environments, why is it unsafe for Kentucky schools to continue in-person operations while applying the same safety protocols?” Cameron asked in a news release. “The Governor’s orders are arbitrary and inconsistent when it comes to school closures in Kentucky. We urge the Governor to follow the legal opinions issued earlier this year by multiple federal judges and allow religious schools to continue in-person instruction while following recommended health guidelines.”
First Liberty Institute represents Danville Christian School.
“Governor Beshear continues to impose limits on religious gatherings that are blatantly unconstitutional,” said Roger Byron, Senior Counsel at First Liberty in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “Despite repeatedly losing in court during the pandemic he has once again issued an order that violates the Constitution and puts kids at risk. The CDC made it clear that one of the safest locations’ students can be at during the pandemic is in school. The court should reject Governor Beshear’s order and follow the CDC and the law.”
The school has taken costly precautions to keep their students and faculty safe, according to Byron. “Prior to the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, DCA collaborated with local health officials and consultants – including three medical doctors, among others – to plan the reopening and operation of the school and the safe return of its students and staff during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. “DCA’s reopening and operational plan was approved by the director of the Boyle County Health Department, who stated repeatedly that he approved of DCA’s plan and that DCA is ‘doing it right.’”
Recent studies have shown that there is little risk of COVID-19 transmission in the schools. And closing schools and switching to online learning have proven to be less than ideal for students’ academic success.
Gov. Beshear seems to be combatting the wrong problem using unconstitutional methods. Hopefully, the federal courts will step in and issue a course correction.
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