Judge halts governor’s order banning in-person classes at private religious schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A federal judge on Wednesday issued a statewide preliminary injunction against Governor Andy Beshear’s recent order banning in-person classes at private, religious-based schools, according to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

The initial lawsuit was brought by Danville Christian Academy, was joined by Attorney General Cameron and supported by more than a dozen religious schools and more than one-thousand parents.

The lawsuit claimed the governor’s order, which is designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, violated the First Amendment as well as the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove ruled the ban can remain in place for public schools.

A spokeswoman for the governor, Crystal Staley, released the following statement following the judge’s ruling.

“We are disappointed but not surprised that Judge Van Tatenhove, for the second time, has refused to acknowledge the U.S. Supreme Court decision that found an action like this is both legal and constitutional. We have already appealed to the Sixth Circuit and will request an emergency stay of the judge’s order, and, if necessary, will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Let’s be clear: lives are on the line and everyone must do their part to defeat the virus.”

Judge Van Tatenhove ruled this summer the governor couldn’t stop churches from holding in-person services during the pandemic.

Wednesday’s ruling comes a couple of weeks after the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously upheld Governor Beshear’s authority to issue executive orders in a public health emergency.

The governor issued the school order Nov. 18 and announced new restrictions applying until mid-December for restaurants, bars, gyms, offices, indoor gatherings, funerals and weddings.

Attorney General Cameron issued a statement in reaction to the judge’s ruling.  A portion of that statement is below:

“On this day before Thanksgiving, I am incredibly thankful for the timeless and enduring protections enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.  More than 200 years ago, our founders answered the question presented to the court in this case by protecting the free exercise of religion, and today, the court firmly upheld that guarantee by recognizing that Kentuckians have a right to worship and express their faith through a religious education,” Cameron said.

A copy of the court’s ruling is available here.





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