Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron joins lawsuit to stop the banning of in-person instruction at religious schools

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Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 6:20 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - In a news release Friday evening, Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that he was joining a lawsuit brought by Danville Christian Academy asking the court to put a temporary restraining order on Gov. Beshear’s banning of in-person instruction at religious schools.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky says that the Governor’s executive orders that include the halting of in-person instruction at religious schools in the state violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Kentucky’s equivalent constitutional guarantees, and the Commonwealth’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA).

“The Governor’s school-closure order prohibits religious organizations from educating children consistent with and according to their faith,” said Attorney General Cameron. “The ability to provide and receive a private religious education is a core part of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Religiously affiliated schools that follow recommended social-distancing guidelines should be allowed to remain open. In August, we issued guidance stating that a closure of religious schools during the pandemic would risk violating the U.S. Constitution and state law. The Governor dismissed the guidance, and he has now forced us to bring a lawsuit to protect the constitutional rights of Kentuckians.”

Many schools have already spent money in order to comply with health guidelines and safely stay open. Danville Christian Academy has spent between $20,000 and $30,000 to operationalize a safety plan. The Boyle County Health Department even noted that the school is “doing it right.”

“We continue to hear that the classroom is the safest place for our children during this pandemic,” said House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade. “Our schools have done a tremendous job planning and implementing safety procedures in our school systems and a phenomenal job of keeping our children safe. As we continue to make decisions that will affect hundreds of thousands of Kentucky children and their families, we need to check our emotions at the door and make decisions based on credible facts.”

The governor’s orders caused confusion among some who don’t understand how schools are unsafe, but venues can continue to operate with up to “25 people per room,” the same size as many classrooms across Kentucky.

“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?” said Attorney General Cameron. “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.”

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