The attorney general of Texas has ordered local authorities to cease any attempts to shut down faith-based private schools, stating that those institutions are protected by both the U.S. Constitution and Texas statute.
In a public letter Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote, “Under the Governor’s orders, local governments are prohibited from closing religious institutions or dictating mitigation strategies to those institutions. Local governments are similarly prohibited from issuing blanket orders closing religious private schools.”
The Texas Education Agency has ordered that public schools in the state may delay in-person instruction for up to two months in the fall.
Paxton said that regarding the state’s efforts to reopen public schools in the fall, “local public health officials have begun to issue orders restricting or limiting in-person instruction” in private schools. In the letter, the attorney general said that “religious private schools and institutions” are exempt from those regulations and that attempts to “restrict the provision of religious instruction through religious private schools” violate both the federal and state constitutions as well as the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“Because a local order closing a religious private school or institution is inconsistent with the governor’s order, any local order is invalid to the extent it purports to do so. The Governor of Texas rightfully identified access to ‘religious services’ as essential services, which must remain open even when other aspects of our communities must close to mitigate the spread of the virus. Religious private schools and religiously affiliated private schools should utilize prior joint guidance on mitigation strategies for houses of worship issued by the Governor and Attorney General,” said AG Paxton.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “I am pleased to see Texas Attorney General Paxton reminding local government of the Constitution. Many have operated as though the Constitution is quarantined during a pandemic. But I have news –- the Constitution is alive and well.”