First Liberty to Continue Challenge of Unlawful Shutdown of Faith-Based Schools in Kentucky

First Liberty Institute will continue to challenge any Governor Andy Beshear executive order that prohibits private religious schools in Kentucky from holding in-person classes for grades K-12. The Supreme Court of the United States today refused to grant emergency relief against the Governor’s order due to timing.

“While we would have liked the Court to rule on the merits today, we appreciate the Court’s specific invitation to us to seek an injunction if the Governor decides to reissue his unconstitutional order on Jan 4th. Rest assured, if the Governor does so on Jan 4th, we will file against him immediately,” said Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO, and Chief Counsel to First Liberty Institute. “The courts need to send a message to Governor Beshear and government officials around the nation that our God-given rights are still protected, even in a crisis, and especially from irrational and discriminatory government orders. The First Amendment protects religious education just as it protects worship.”

In a dissent from the order, Justice Samuel Altio said, “While I do not agree with the Court’s denial of the applicants’ request for emergency relief, no one should misinterpret that denial as signifying approval of the Sixth Circuit’s decision.”

In November, Governor Beshear ordered all “public and private elementary, middle, and high schools,” including private religious schools, to cease in-person instruction through the end of the year. At the same time, the Governor allowed other activities such as theaters, weddings, bowling alleys, gambling parlors and offices, to continue in-person with some restrictions. Preschools, universities and colleges are permitted to hold in-person instruction as well.

On November 25, a federal district court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Governor “from enforcing the prohibition on in-person instruction with respect to any religious private school in Kentucky that adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines.” Over Thanksgiving weekend, a panel of the Sixth Circuit stayed the district court’s injunction, allowing the Governor’s order to take effect.

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First Liberty conducts research and provides analysis on the effects of policy actions on religious liberty. This publication is intended to be used for informational, educational and reference purposes only.

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