LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and a Christian school in Danville, Kentucky, are suing Gov. Andy Beshear over one of his new pandemic restrictions.
Cameron and Danville Christian Academy on Friday filed a federal lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky to pause Beshear's temporary ban on in-person instruction at religious schools. The suit claims the governor's restriction, which was announced Wednesday, violates the First Amendment and Kentucky's Religious Freedom and Restoration Act.
"The Governor’s school-closure order prohibits religious organizations from educating children consistent with and according to their faith," Cameron said in a statement.
My statement regarding the lawsuit we filed in federal court today to stop the Governor's unconstitutional order banning in-person instruction at religious schools.Read more: https://t.co/FlsDOYF4Oo pic.twitter.com/yFrg7aoPCd— Attorney General Daniel Cameron (@kyoag) November 20, 2020
In August, Cameron released an opinion saying Beshear cannot order the closure of religiously affiliated schools that are in compliance with reasonable health guidelines.
"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 said in the statement. "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."
Beshear's restriction takes effect Monday in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The measure allows elementary schools to resume classroom instruction Dec. 7 if their counties are averaging less than 25 daily cases per 100,000 residents (qualifying them to receive "red zone" classification) and districts adhere to public health guidance. Middle and high schools, however, can reopen classrooms on Jan. 4, 2021, at the earliest, the governor said.
Cameron has bolstered pervious challenges to Beshear's executive orders during the pandemic, but the Kentucky Supreme Court on Nov. 12 unanimously ruled that the orders were legal and "necessary." The high court determined that the governor properly declared a state of emergency, used his emergency powers and, because his orders and regulations were not arbitrary, did not violate the state constitution.
In May, the governor did, however, have an executive order prohibiting mass gatherings struck down as it applied to in-person church services. U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled that Beshear and other state officials are prohibited from "enforcing the prohibition on mass gatherings with respect to any in-person religious service which adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines."
In response to the lawsuit filed by Cameron and Danville Christian Academy, a spokesperson for Beshear issued the following response:
"The Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Governor has the constitutional authority to issue orders to help save lives. This week, Kentucky has a 9% COVID-19 positivity rate, 112 red zone counties and nearly 10,000 students and staff in quarantine. Of those, nearly 1,700 tested positive for the virus. This week, we also lost our first student to the virus – a 15-year-old girl from Ballard County – and a teacher. The Governor has followed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and public health experts; and many other Governors across the country are taking similar actions to protect the health and lives of children and families. The attorney general should stop playing politics and instead help Kentuckians understand what it takes to defeat this virus."
This story may be updated.
- Gov. Beshear orders public, private schools to close classrooms starting Monday
- Kentucky Supreme Court rules that Beshear's COVID-19 orders were legal
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