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Federal court rules in-person learning at religious schools can continue

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky today ruled in favor of the Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Danville Christian Academy in issuing a statewide preliminary injunction against Gov. Andy Beshear’s order banning in-person instruction at religious schools.  The lawsuit was supported by more than one dozen religious schools and over 1,000 Kentucky parents.

Earlier this week, the AG’s team argued before the court that the governor’s order violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and that religious schools that follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines should be allowed to remain open. The court agreed, and the preliminary injunction prohibits enforcement of the governor’s order and allows in-person instruction at religious schools to resume immediately.

In August, at the request of Senator Wil Schroder, Cameron issued Attorney General Opinion 20-13 claiming that the governor, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and other state or local officials cannot order the closure of religiously affiliated schools that are in compliance with reasonable health guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In the opinion issued Wednesday, the court pointed to the many activities that the governor has allowed to continue while banning in-person instruction at religious schools. The court “wonder[ed] why under this executive order, one would be free to attend a lecture, go to work, or attend a concert, but not attend socially distanced chapel in school or pray together in a classroom that is following strict safety procedures and social distancing.” The court emphasized that “[i]f 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.”

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