Citing imminent expiration, justices reject Christian college’s request for exemption from Kentucky’s in-person college closures

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The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a motion by a Kentucky Christian school and the attorney general to allow face-to-face tuition in religious schools, stressing that most Kentucky schools will close on Friday, December 18, for the winter break judges let open to the possibility that the school could return for renewed relief if the state governor issues a new school closure order after the holidays. Judges Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch contradicted the judgment in four paragraphs.

The request came from Danville Christian Academy, a private K-12 school near Lexington, and Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron for Kentucky. They challenged an order dated Nov. 18, in which the state’s Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, amid an increase in COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, ordered in-person tuition at all “public and private, middle, middle, and high schools” by the end of the calendar year. and high schools in the state. “Later that day, Beshear issued a second order allowing other personal activities such as theaters, bowling alleys, and wedding venues to remain open, subject to limited attendance and capacity.

Danville Christian and Cameron argued that the November 18 order violated the constitutional freedom clause, and a federal district court banned the state from enforcing the closure on private religious schools that follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines . However, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, ruling that Danville Christian and Cameron were unlikely to win in the end, as Beshear’s order is neutral and applies to all secular and religious schools in Kentucky.

Danville Christian and Cameron went to the Supreme Court on November 30, telling judges that the 6th Circle should consider the more favorable treatment that the Second Order provides for secular personal gatherings, even though these gatherings “pose a significant risk of outbreaks . “

Beshear asked the court to uphold the order. He agreed that “the Constitution must remain vital in times of crisis” – a key point in the court’s November 25 decision setting restrictions on attending religious gatherings in New York. He pointed out, however, that Kentucky is currently experiencing a “deadly third wave” of the pandemic, and Danville Christian and Cameron had not submitted any “expert testimony, scientific study, or public health statement” to support their claim that public health is at risk -Person schools are comparable to those resulting from the activities of the second resolution of November 18. “With respect,” wrote Beshear, “no one – no polling officer, public health expert, or court – should make public order decisions to the life and death based on these purely anecdotal, unscientific and flawed considerations about the spread of COVID-19 to meet. “

In an unsigned decision issued by Danville Christian 13 days after Beshear’s response and nine days after Danville Christian submitted the response letter, the judges denied Danville Christian’s request. They noted that Beshear’s assignment “is effectively this week or shortly thereafter and there is no indication that it will be renewed.” In addition to the school’s argument that the Order discriminates against religion by treating secular businesses more favorably than schools, several “friends of the court” who supported the school also called for the Order to be discarded for restricting parents . Rights to control their children’s education. But Danville Christian and Cameron themselves failed to properly advance that argument, the judges wrote. “At all costs, including the timing and impending expiration of the order,” they concluded, the application for permission to teach in person with Danville Christian would be denied. However, they went on to say that if Beshear issues a new order, the school or others could return to court to petition for those restrictions to be lifted.

In a four-sided dissent, which Alito had joined, Gorsuch criticized the decision of the 6th circle. “Whatever the ultimate merits of this case,” wrote Gorsuch, the appellate court should have considered the challengers’ argument that both November 18 orders taken together discriminated against religion. “Whether discrimination is divided into two orders or anchored in one does not matter,” explained Gorsuch, “because the constitution cannot be circumvented simply by multiplying the decrees.” Even if the challengers had incorrectly advanced the argument of the parents’ right to regulate the upbringing of their children, the 6th Circle’s failure to examine both arrangements together justified its rejection of its decision. And because the orders “remain in effect”, he continued, it would be “better for everyone” if the court ordered the 6th circuit to “resolve the case now according to strict legal rules”.

Gorsuch cited a case in which Kentucky state police enforced stay-at-home instructions recorded believers’ license plates at an Easter service and noted that as a result of the pandemic, state officials “have sometimes handled constitutional rights with Suspicion. However, “the Supreme Court has” made it clear that it would no longer tolerate such deviations from the Constitution “- even” in a case in which the contested edict had expired. “He would do the same here, he wrote:” Me would not allow any further possibly unconstitutional decree to come into force for the next few weeks. “

Alito also filed a separate dissent, which Gorsuch followed. He noted that he disagreed with the decision to reject Danville Christian’s motion; He also added, “Nobody should misinterpret this rejection to mean approval of the Sixth Circle decision.” Rather, Alito stressed that the court’s decision “appears to be based primarily on timing” and the idea that the judges “are therefore reluctant to do so, as the winter break begins for most schools and the personal school starts next year resumed granting relief that would have little practical effect at this point. “Alito went on, the school and the attorney general filed their lawsuit just two days after the order was made and came to the Supreme Court on December 1, two days after the 6th District decision. “It’s hard to see,” Alito concluded, “how they could have gone faster.”

In a press release released Thursday evening, attorneys for Danville Christian said that while their client “would have liked the court to rule on merit today,” they would return to court “immediately” if Beshear issued a new school closure order . Kelly Shackelford, chief attorney for the First Liberty Institute, who represents Danville Christian, wrote that courts “should send a message to Governor Beshear and government officials across the country that our God-given rights are still protected in a crisis, and especially one that is irrational and discriminatory Government regulations. The first change protects religious education as well as worship. “

This article was originally published by Howe on the Court.

Posted in Danville Christian Academy Vs. Beshear, Featured, Emergency Appeals and Applications

Recommended citation:
Amy Howe, citing the impending process, denies the Christian school’s request for exemption from Kentucky’s personal school closure.
SCOTUSblog (December 17, 2020, 7:08 pm), https://www.scotusblog.com/2020/12/citing-imminent-expiration-justices-reject-christian-schools-request-for-exemption-from-kentuckys – in-person school closings /