The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a motion by a Christian school in Kentucky and the attorney general to allow face-to-face tuition in religious schools, stressing that most schools in Kentucky will close on Friday, December 18 for the winter break judges let open to the possibility that the school might 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 Daniel Cameron, Kentucky attorney general. 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 personal 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 ordinance 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 Circuit should have considered the more favorable treatment that the Second Order provides for secular personal gatherings, even though those 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 ruling setting restrictions on attending religious gatherings in New York. However, he pointed out that Kentucky is currently experiencing a “third deadly third wave” in 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 In-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, and 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 had submitted the reply, the judges denied Danville Christian’s request. They noted that Beshear’s assignment “is effectively expiring this week or shortly thereafter and there is no indication that it will be renewed.” In addition to the school’s argument that order discriminates against religion by treating secular businesses more favorably than schools, several “friends of the court” who supported the school also called for order to be discarded because it restricts 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 Danville Christian in person 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 appeals court should have taken into account the challengers’ argument that the 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 consider both arrangements together, as suggested Gorsuch, justified rejecting its decision. And because the orders “remain in effect”, he continued, it would be “better for everyone” if the court instructs the 6th circuit to “resolve the case now according to strict legal rules”.
Gorsuch cited a case where Kentucky state police enforced stay-at-home instructions recorded believers’ license plates at an Easter service, noting that as a result of the pandemic, state officials “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. “It would do the same here, he wrote:” I would not allow any further possibly unconstitutional decree to come into force in the next few weeks either. “
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 winter holidays begin for most schools and personal schooling 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 case just two days after the order was passed 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 wished 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 will continue to be protected in a crisis and especially against irrational and discriminatory government ordinances . The first change protects religious education as well as worship. “
This article was originally published by Howe on the Court.
Amy Howe rejects 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 /