UPDATE: Hearing Monday afternoon in church school lawsuit

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UPDATE, POSTED NOV. 23, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) Nine religious schools and more than 1,000 Kentucky parents have filed amicus briefs in support of Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s and Danville Christian Academy’s lawsuit challenging whether Gov. Andy Beshear’s mandate that schools, including private schools, teach virtually until early next month.

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The order basically is in effect for next week since many schools are closed all or part of this week for Thanksgiving. Elementary schools can reopen Dec. 7 if they aren’t in red zones while high schools and middle schools must remain in virtual instruction until Jan. 4 under the orders signed last week by Beshear.

Friday, Cameron filed a lawsuit in federal court against Governor Beshear asking the court to issue a statewide temporary restraining order against the Governor’s latest order. 

The Attorney General argues the Governor’s order violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as Kentucky’s equivalent constitutional guarantees and the Commonwealths Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA).

On Sunday night, nine religious schools filed an amicus brief in support of the Attorney General’s position. This morning, less than 72 hours after the lawsuit was filed, more than 1,000 Kentucky parents filed a separate amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.

To view a copy of the amicus brief filed by nine religious schools, click here. The amicus brief filed by more than 1,000 Kentucky parents is available here.

A hearing in the case is set for 2:00 p.m. ET Monday.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED NOV. 20, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ)- The governor’s office responded Friday night to a lawsuit from the attorney general and Danville Christian Academy against the governor’s new order that all schools must switch to virtual learning.

“The Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Governor has the constitutional authority to issue orders to help save lives. This week, Kentucky has a 9% COVID-19 positivity rate, 112 red zone counties and nearly 10,000 students and staff in quarantine. Of those, nearly 1,700 tested positive for the virus. This week, we also lost our first student to the virus – a 15-year-old girl from Ballard County – and a teacher. The Governor has followed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and public health experts; and many other Governors across the country are taking similar actions to protect the health and lives of children and families. The attorney general should stop playing politics and instead help Kentuckians understand what it takes to defeat this virus,” Crystal Staley said.

Danville Christian and the attorney general want a federal court to issue a statewide temporary restraining order because they think it’s unconstitutional to ban in-person instruction at religious schools.

“The Governors school-closure order prohibits religious organizations from educating children consistent with and according to their faith,” Attorney General Daniel Cameron said.

Cameron says the governor’s order violates the First Amendment, Kentucky’s constitution, and the state’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA).

According to Cameron, Danville Christian has spent between $20-$30,000 on a safety plan and received positive feedback from the Boyle County Health Department on its protocols.

“Schools across the Commonwealth find themselves facing the same dilemma as Danville Christian spending thousands of dollars and hours of manpower to safely operate schools and then being forced to close despite following the recommended health guidelines and successfully preventing significant outbreaks,” Cameron’s office said.

“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? 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,” Cameron said.

The governor’s office says there is a lot of evidence to back up the executive order.

It says the CDC recommends making decisions about school based on several factors, including “the degree of ongoing transmission in the community.”

The office also cites New York City choosing to close schools after reaching a 3% positivity rate threshold. Kentucky’s rate is above 9%.

Another article the governor’s office shared mentions restrictions in Michigan that include virtual learning.

The office also shared the Associated Press poll taken earlier this month that found 63% of voters in the state approve of the governor’s actions.

You can see the suit here. You can read the governor’s executive order here.

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Veronica Jean Seltzer joins ABC 36 as Anchor/Reporter. On most weekdays, you will see her reporting the news. VJ hails from a small horse farm outside New York City and most recently comes from South Bend, Indiana where she reported for the CBS and Fox affiliates. VJ holds a Master of Science in Journalism degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. Her passion for journalism runs deep. It began as she studied graffiti as an ancient form of communication in Athens, Greece. While a student journalist in Morocco, she learned her most important journalistic lesson: good stories are about people. VJ loves life in and around Lexington. She feels most at home among horses and a diverse community of fascinating people. She enjoys reporting during the week and on the weekend she strives to bring her neighbors the news that matters most to them. VJ enjoys going to neighborhood events, exploring, horseback riding, skiing, sailing, and good movies. Look for her out and about in the community! VJ invites you to reach out to her with story ideas or just to say hello! Find her on Facebook at Veronica Jean Seltzer ABC 36, tweet her @VJS_ABC36, or email her at VSeltzer@wtvq.com. She looks forward to hearing from you!