AG Cameron files emergency application with US Supreme Court in latest move to open private, religious schools

AG Cameron files emergency application with US Supreme Court in latest move to open private, religious schools
Cameron’s office announced Monday that they have filed an emergency application with the United States Supreme Court. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron took another step in the legal battle to stop Governor Beshear’s executive order against closing religious, private schools for in-person instruction.

Cameron’s office announced Monday that they have filed an emergency application with the United States Supreme Court in the case of Danville Christian Academy v. Beshear.

The latest application is asking the court to take into effect a ruling, given by the U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove last Wednesday, effectively stopping the enforcement of an in-person instruction ban for private, religious schools in Kentucky.

“Kentuckians have a First Amendment right to exercise their faith through a religious education, and we maintain that the Governor is clearly infringing upon that right by closing religious schools,” Attorney General Cameron said in a statement. “The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that religious institutions cannot be treated different than secular activities, and we are asking the court to simply apply the same analysis to the Governor’s disparate treatment of religious schools and other secular activities. We’re committed to pursuing every available option to protect the constitutional rights of Kentuckians, and today’s filing with the Supreme Court is the next step.”

Cameron had spoken on Fox & Friends earlier Monday morning discussing the lawsuit and why it infringes on First Amendment rights and religious freedoms.

The lawsuit was initially filed after an executive order was given by Governor Andy Beshear on November 18 to halt all elementary, middle and high schools in-person classes from Nov. 23 through Dec. 13.

Since then, there has been a legal back and forth on whether the initial executive order discriminated over any certain group or if the order was a broadly applicable one.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove Wednesday ruled an exemption for the religious, private schools.

“Religious schools across the Commonwealth have been closed by the Governor to in-person teaching along with secular schools. This prevents the corporate nature of religious education which is insinuated with worship, prayer, and mentoring,” Van Tatenhove wrote.

Beshear filed the appeal to this exemption Thursday, claiming the restrictions were not discriminatory as all schools were being treated the same, whether public school or private school.

In response to that, Cameron filed a brief Saturday, stating religious education is religious expression that would be protected under the U.S. Constitution.

On Sunday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled the order was a broadly applicable one and that they “are not in a position to second-guess the Governor’s determination regarding the health and safety of the Commonwealth at this point in time.”

The emergency filing states the Sixth Circuit “ignored Executive Order 2020-968 and the various guidance documents issued by the Governor that permit the operation of everything in Kentucky except K-12 schools and indoor consumption at bars and restaurants.”

Cameron said he is asking the Supreme Court to look into the ruling of the lawsuit Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, where governors could not impose harder restrictions on religious institutions than they do on secular gatherings. That lawsuit was filed as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo created an executive order limiting the number of people who can attend worship services to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Read the full filing below:

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