UPDATE: Judge dismisses lawsuit aimed at blocking relocation of cemetery
The ruling involves Hoskins Cemetery, which overlooks a school and athletic facilities in Clay County
Update from June 3, 2022:
MANCHESTER, Ky. (WTVQ) – Another legal setback for a group fighting the relocation of graves from a cemetery in Clay County.
According to Clay Circuit Court records, a judge on Friday dismissed the lawsuit fighting the relocation of some 80 gravesites in Hoskins Cemetery in Manchester.
A federal lawsuit to block the relocation was dismissed in February of this year.
ABC 36 News reached out the group’s attorney Stella House. Her paralegal says they couldn’t divulge a strategy or next move, but that they plan to “do something.”
The cemetery sits atop a steep hill in Manchester. It overlooks an elementary school, athletic fields and is near the high school. The land is owned by the Clay County Board of Education.
The board calls the location a potential safety issue. The board’s attorney goes a step further, calling it a potential “sniper’s nest.”
As a result, the board wants to relocate the some 80 graves, some of which date back to the Civil War and include descendants of Native Americans, according to the group fighting relocation.
Update from February 17, 2022:
MANCHESTER, Ky. (WTVQ) – A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit aimed at stopping the relocation of a cemetery that overlooks a school and athletic facilities in Clay County, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The report says U.S. District Judge Claria Horn Boom ruled opponents of the move offered scant support for their objections.
The land is owned by the Clay County Board of Education.
‘Hoskins Cemetery’ overlooks Manchester Elementary School and is near Clay County High School and athletic facilities, including the football field. The school district wants to move the cemetery, which dates from the early 1890’s, saying it represents a potential safety risk since it sits atop a steep hill the overlooks the school and sports facilities. School board attorney Sharon Allen has referred to it as a potential “sniper’s nest.”
The cemetery has about 80 grave sites covering a third of an acre. Among those buried, military veterans, some dating back to the Civil War, Native Americans and their descendants, according to cemetery supporters.
Opponents of the relocation argued it would interrupt the religious practices of their descendants, violate federal provisions protecting Native American graves, violate historic preservation rules and the First Amendment provision against government favoring a particular religion. The judge disagreed, ruling the school board followed the proper procedure in seeking to move the graves, according to the report.
The judge dismissed all the federal claims in the lawsuit and declined to rule on some claims related to state law, according to the Herald-Leader. Opponents of the relocation could file suit in state court on some of the claims or appeal Judge Boom’s decision to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the report.
The opponents attorney, Stella B. House, told the Herald-Leader she had not decided whether to appeal the federal ruling or file in state court.
Original story below from July 21, 2021:
CLAY COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky State Police are investigating death threats made against the Clay County Schools superintendent and board of education chair over moving graves from a cemetery on property owned by the school district, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The report says the death threats against Superintendent William Sexton and Board of Education Chairman Mark Hoskins came via email messages on July 15 and 16.
The report says the email messages mentioned guns and threats to kill people.
This comes after the school board announced it intended to move graves from the 128-year old Hoskins Cemetery.
The cemetery sits on the top of a steep hill that overlooks Manchester Elementary School and sports facilities.
The school board says the graves need to be moved because the location poses a safety threat since the cemetery overlooks a school and athletic facilities. Sharon Allen, an attorney for the board of education, called the location a potential “sniper’s nest,” according to the report.
There are an estimated 80 graves in the cemetery, which include veterans dating back to the Civil War, and descendants of Native Americans, according to the report.
Family members of some of the people buried in the cemetery have protested the plan to move the graves. There was a protest in Manchester on July 8, 2021 where people chanted, “Educate, don’t desecrate,” according to the report.
Manchester attorney Stella B. House told the newspaper cemetery supporters will sue to try to block the removal of the graves if necessary.
The Clay County Board of Education received the necessary permission from the Clay County Fiscal Court to seek state permits to move the graves, according to the report.
The school board has applied to the state for permits to move the graves, which would have to be overseen by a funeral director, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.