SCOTUS Declines To Let Kentucky Religious Schools Reopen Without Addressing the Constitutionality of Closing Them
The Supreme Court yesterday declined to intervene on behalf of Danville Christian Academy, which challenged Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s pandemic-inspired closure of K-12 schools. The Court emphasized that Beshear’s November 18 order expires soon with the beginning of winter break, after which schools currently are scheduled to reopen. The Court left open the possibility that Danville Christian Academy could renew its challenge if Beshear, a Democrat, extends his order into the new year. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented from the decision, noting that Beshear could avoid Supreme Court review by issuing a series of temporary orders that would have the same effect as a long-term closure.
Unlike New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on houses of worship, which the Court overturned last month as a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, Beshear’s order does not explicitly discriminate against religious activities. But Danville Christian Academy, joined by Kentucky’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, emphasized that the governor, while closing religious schools, is allowing many secular activities that pose similar or higher risks of virus transmission.
U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, who last month issued a preliminary injunction allowing religious schools to open, found that argument persuasive. “This court wonders why, under this executive order, one would be free to attend a lecture, go to work or attend a concert, but not attend socially distanced chapel in school or pray together in a classroom that is following strict safety procedures and s
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