Beshear files appeal to keep private, religious schools closed for in-person classes

Gov. Andy Beshear
Gov. Andy Beshear(WAVE 3 News)
Updated: Nov. 27, 2020 at 6:54 PM CST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Attorneys for Governor Andy Beshear are fighting back after a judge ruled Wednesday that private religious schools could continue in-person classes amid the pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove made the ruling on a lawsuit initially filed by Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Danville Christian Academy on Nov. 20. The lawsuit asked for a temporary restraining order to be put in place against Beshear’s order affecting religious and private schools.

Beshear previously announced new coronavirus restrictions that prohibited all schools -- public and private -- from holding in-person classes for three weeks starting Nov. 23. The governor argued on Monday his executive orders were not discriminatory and he was treating all schools the same.

Attorney Chris Wiest is representing the Highlands Latin School in Louisville in a lawsuit similar to Cameron’s. His clients also argue that Beshear is infringing upon religious liberty and COVID-19 has not been widely spread in the schools.

“The schools are not a conduit for spread, it is going on elsewhere in the community but I don’t think it’s going on in the schools and where would you rather have the kids be, in a socially distanced classroom in masks or at home with grandma and grandpa possible getting them sick,” he said.

Wiest filed an amicus brief Friday in support of Wednesday’s ruling which he believes “got it right.”

Beshear’s office on Thursday appealed to the Sixth Circuit to block Judge Van Tatenhove’s ruling. A spokesperson for Beshear said the case will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Wiest believes Cameron’s case will prevail if the high court takes it up.

“I think that the governor is going to get slammed in the Supreme Court,” he said. “If that’s what he wants to do to create more binding federal case law on these issues I say let him have at it. If it takes the U.S. Supreme Court to tell him that he’s wrong, that he’s violating people’s rights, I guess that’s what it’s going to be.”

Cameron replied to Beshear’s efforts late Thursday on Twitter.

“It’s frightening that the Governor believes he can suspend religious liberty. The Governor is not above the law, and we urge him to drop this ill-conceived appeal and to halt his attacks on religious freedom,” he said.

In a series of tweets, Cameron also referenced a Wednesday ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that blocked efforts by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to restrict gatherings at houses of worship.

Cameron argued that Beshear ignored the New York ruling and “doubled down” on his unconstitutional closure of religious schools by seeking emergency relief from an appellate court.

Attorneys for Cameron and Danville Christian Academy have a deadline of 10 a.m. Saturday to respond to Beshear’s appeal.

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