Kentucky religious school asks U.S. Supreme Court to block state shutdown order


A Kentucky religious school has asked the United States Supreme Court for emergency aid following a state order that closed all public and private schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12. State for in-person education amid the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Danville Christian Academy, a 234-student pre-K-12 school in central Kentucky, seeks to overturn Sunday ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati. The appeals court lifted an injunction issued by a federal district court against Governor Andrew G. Beshear’s Nov. 18 shutdown order.

The panel of three judges of the 6th circuit ruled that Danville Christian’s allegations of religious discrimination were unlikely to succeed in substance because the governor’s order was neutral and generally applicable to all K-12 schools in the state.

The school, joined by Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, filed its emergency request on December 1 with Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who is the circuit judge responsible for these matters for the 6th Circuit. Kavanaugh gave Beshear, a Democrat, until 4 p.m. Friday to respond.

Kavanaugh could rule on his own, but he’s more likely to send the claim to the Supreme Court in its entirety. The court has processed several emergency orders related to the pandemic since last spring. Last week, just before Thanksgiving, judges ruled 5-4 to block New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s occupancy limits on church attendance in certain geographies with high COVID-19 positivity rates.

The decision in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, NY c. Cuomo demonstrated the importance of replacing Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg with new Judge Amy Coney Barrett. In the spring, the High Court denied relief from state limits to churches in California and Nevada. The vote in the California affair was 5-4 with Ginsburg in the majority. But the High Court has yet to address the issue of state orders closing schools.

There is another emergency request pending on religious objections to state closure orders for places of worship and schools. In Robinson v. Murphy (No. 20A95), a Roman Catholic rabbi and priest challenge New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy’s capacity limits on places of worship and the mask mandate as it applies to church services and schools . Murphy has a deadline Thursday to respond to the request from religious leaders. (I described the New Jersey case in more detail last week at the end of this story. about Brooklyn’s decision.)

The Kentucky app is Danville Christian Academy c. Beshear (No. 20A96). The school, which is represented by the First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom organization based in Plano, Texas, says schools have been closed while almost everything else in Kentucky is open except bars and restaurants. Churches remained open for in-person worship due to separate litigation, according to the filing notes, while varsity basketball from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville played to crowds of about 3. 000 people each in recent days.

“To sum up, in Kentucky you can go to a morning at the movies, visit a distillery, work out at the gym, bet in a gambling hall, shop, go to work, cheer on the Wildcats or the Cardinals, and attend a wedding, ”said the file, adding that daycares and colleges also remain open.

“But all of Kentucky’s religious schools are closed,” the request said. He does not dwell on the fact that public schools are also closed to in-person instruction. Instead, the claim focuses on the Supreme Court ruling Diocese of Brooklyn decision, in which the majority were troubled by the stricter occupancy limits the New York ordinance imposed on places of worship than on many secular businesses.

For example, according to the Danville Christian School file, Beshear’s order allows up to 25 people to attend weddings or cinemas. But the class size of the school is less than 25 students.

“Neutral regulations of general applicability would deal with all gatherings of 25 people the same way, regardless of Why these 25 people gather inside ”, indicates the file.

The school said it adopted several safety measures when it reopened for in-person instruction in August, including temperature checks, masks and class dividers. Four students and a teacher have tested positive for COVID-19 since the school opened, according to the file.

Under Beshear’s current ordinance, public and private elementary schools can reopen for in-person instruction on December 7 if certain local conditions are met. Colleges and high schools will remain in distance learning until at least January 4 under the order.

On Monday, Beshear released a statement saying there were 4,151 new cases of the coronavirus and 35 deaths from the virus across the state on December 1.

“There’s no way to water it down,” Beshear said in the statement. “Today is the worst day we have had to report on the spread of the coronavirus and it is the deadliest day we have had.”


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