Thursday, November 26, 2020

Kentucky Governor Enjoined From Enforcing Closure of Religious Schools

 In Danville Christian Academy, Inc. v. Beshear, (ED KY, Nov. 25, 2020), a Kentucky federal district court enjoined Kentucky's governor  from enforcing his COVID-19 prohibition on in-person instruction against any religious private school in the state that adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines. The court found that the restriction violates the school's free exercise rights, saying in part:

[A]lthough the Governor would like the Court to only compare schools in the context of the executive order and find the order to be one of general applicability, Maryville instructs otherwise. In answering the general applicability question in Maryville, the Sixth Circuit questioned why law firms, laundromats, liquor stores, and gun shops could stay open while churches, despite following CDC-approved guidelines, could not. 957 F.3d at 614. The restrictions which the Sixth Circuit criticized as “inexplicably applied to one group and exempted from another” are similar to those Danville Christian challenges today. This Court wonders 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.... Of even more significance, preschools in the state remain open after this executive order, as do colleges and universities.... The prohibition on in-person teaching is not narrowly tailored as required by Lukumi.

As reported by WKYT News, the state will request an emergency stay of the judge's order from the 6th Circuit.