Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order halting in-person classes will remain in effect, after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Thursday not to take up Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s challenge against the order on grounds it violates religious freedom.
“Under all of the circumstances, especially the timing and the impending expiration of the Order, we deny the application without prejudice,” the justices wrote in a Thursday opinion.
The justices note that Beshear’s order will expire soon. But they leave open the possibility the suit could be brought again, if, for example, Beshear renews his executive order.
Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.
Beshear welcomed the news during his evening briefing.
“In no way were religious schools treated any differently,” Beshear said. “We asked everybody to make the same sacrifice….and guess what, we see with that and other steps it having stopped an exponential growth that was threatening our hospital capacity.”
Beshear’s order directed all schools, public and private, to move to remote instruction until Jan. 4 in an effort to curb a surge in coronavirus cases in November. Cases and deaths are still growing, but officials say the rate of growth is much slower than it was before the order went into effect.
Cameron, along with Danville Christian Academy and many other parents and private religious schools across the state had sued Beshear, saying the order impinges on their freedom to exercise their faith through religious schooling.
Beshear’s order has now survived multiple requests for a preliminary injunction opponents hoped would block it from taking effect on private religious schools. But the courts have yet to decide the case on its merits.