Appeals court allows Beshear to halt in-person classes at religious schools

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 A federal appeals court on Sunday morning sided with Gov. Andy Beshear’s order to close religious private schools and others in the state as the coronavirus rages in Kentucky.


The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati granted Beshear’s request to temporarily halt a judge’s ruling that would have allowed 17 private Christian schools to reopen. Those schools filed a lawsuit over Beshear’s restrictions and was awarded a preliminary injunction last week from U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove.


In the opinion issued by Judge Karen Nelson Moore, Senior Judge John M.  Rogers and Judge Helen N. White, they wrote there is no “evidence that the challenge restrictions were ‘targeted’ or ‘gerrymandered’ to ensure an impact on religious groups."


Attorney General Daniel Cameron joined the schools in their lawsuit. More than 1,000 parents also backed the schools’ suit.


However, the three-member appellate court said Sunday that Van Tatenholve’s preliminary injunction should not have been entered because the schools are unlikely to succeed.


Beshear, on Twitter Sunday, said, “The coronavirus is surging across our country and our commonwealth, bringing sickness and death. Fighting back and protecting one another requires a coordinated effort where all Kentuckians do their part.


“While we all want to get our kids back to in-person instruction, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recognized that doing so now would endanger the health and lives of Kentucky children, educators and families. Almost every county is in the red zone, we have had nearly 10,000 students and staff in quarantine over the past two weeks, our hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed and we have lost nearly 1,900 fellow Kentuckians, including health care workers, a teacher and a 15-year-old student. To help save more lives and defeat this virus we need everyone to do their part.”


The appellate court said Beshear’s order “applies to all public and private elementary and secondary schools in the Commonwealth, religious or otherwise; it is, therefore, neutral and of general applicability and need not be justified by a compelling governmental interest.”


Cameron reacted on Twitter Sunday morning, "We’re disappointed with the Sixth Circuit’s ruling allowing the Governor to close religious schools, but we’re already hard at work to take this matter to the United States Supreme Court."

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