READ THE CASES: Federal judge issues restraining order on masks as it applies to Catholic schools

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CAMPBELL COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – A federal judge’s ruling Thursday, even if only temporary, could throw the state’s entire debate over masks mandates in schools into disarray.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman issued a temporary restraining order blocking Gov. Andy Beshear’s mask mandate in schools, at least as it applies to Catholic schools.

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The ruling came in a lawsuit filed Thursday by a group of 22 parents (beshear masks lawsuit) whose children attend St. Joseph Elementary School, a Catholic school in Campbell County.

The parents argue Beshear ignored state law and violated religious separation.

In his restraining order, the judge tended to agree with the parents’ argument that Beshear violated KRS39A.090 (3), a culmination of controversial bills approved by the Legislature earlier this year under House Bill 1, Senate Bill 1, Senate Bill 2, and House Joint Resolution 77. The measures remain under review by the state Supreme Court whose rulings on the matters were not considered by the judge but could be when a hearing is held Aug. 24.

“The Executive Branch cannot simply ignore laws passed by the duly-elected representatives of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Therein lies tyranny. If the citizens dislike the laws passed, the remedy lies with them, at the polls,” Bertelsman wrote (beshear masks temp restraining orderbeshear masks opinion and order).

The governor’s office issued an immediate statement saying it will contest the decision. The the statement, Beshear’s communications director Crystal Staley said:

“The federal court’s ruling could place thousands of Kentucky children at risk and undoubtedly expose them to the most dangerous version of COVID-19 we have ever seen.

“The court ruled without hearing from the Governor and with absolutely no consideration of the consequences of exposure and quarantine that we will see – especially at a time when we are nearly out of staffed hospital beds statewide. Nor was the court provided the Franklin Circuit Court’s injunction of the legislation at issue.

“We will pursue every avenue and option to ensure that we can protect Kentucky’s children.

“Thankfully, while we disagree with the plaintiffs in the case, they have agreed that the order should be narrowed to only apply to their diocese and no others schools.

“Regardless, the Kentucky Department of Education’s emergency regulation remains in effect for public schools, as does the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ emergency regulation related to child care settings,” she concluded.