Judge Stops Kentucky Governor from Closing Religious Schools After Lawsuit Challenges Order

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U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove today granted a preliminary injunction preventing Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear from enforcing his order his order prohibiting private, religious schools from holding in-person classes after Thanksgiving.  First Liberty represents Danville Christian Academy in Danville, Kentucky in the lawsuit. The judge’s decision states that “…The Governor is enjoined from enforcing the prohibition on in-person instruction with respect to any religious private school in Kentucky that adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines.”

You can read the judge’s order here.

“The court recognized that Governor Beshear’s order prohibiting religious schools from holding in-person classes goes beyond his authority and violates the First Amendment,” said Roger Byron, Senior Counsel at First Liberty.  “We are grateful the court restored the rule of law.  The CDC has made it clear that students are safest when they are at school, and Danville Christian Academy has implemented extensive safety protocols approved by local health officials.”

The court’s order states that “If social distancing is good enough for offices, colleges, and universities within the Commonwealth, it is good enough for religious private K-12 schools that benefit from constitutional protection. Ultimately, ‘[t]he First Amendment protects the right of religious institutions ‘to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.’”

Last Friday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said, “The truth is, for kids K-12, one of the safest places they can be, from our perspective, is to remain in school, and it’s really important that following the data, making sure we don’t make emotional decisions about what to close and what not to close. I’m here to say clearly the data strongly supports that K-12 schools — as well as institutes of higher learning — really are not where we’re having our challenges.”

Danville Christian Academy (“DCA”) provides pre-K through 12th grade classes at its facility in Danville.  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.  DCA’s reopening and operational plan was approved by the director of the Boyle County Health Department, who stated that DCA is “doing it right.”