The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a request from a religious school in Kentucky to block regulations that temporarily restrict in-person instruction in elementary, middle and upper schools in the state due to Covid-19.
The court's unsigned order is the most recent to come from the justices dealing with religious groups that are challenging Covid-19 restrictions as a violation of First Amendment rights, although it is the first dealing with a school. In other recent orders, the court had sided with houses of worship and against state officials.
Here, the court noted that the state's regulation expires in the coming days and that there is "no indication that it will be renewed." The court said that because of the "timing and impending expiration" of the order, it would deny the request to block it but said the school could come back if a new order is issued next year.
Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito dissented, saying that the executive order from Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear "resulted in unconstitutional discrimination against religion."
They said that even with the impending expiration, the court should have blocked the order because for now it remains in dispute, and that the dispute "remains live."
The petition was brought by lawyers for Danville Christian Academy, which argued that the order mandating the closure of all religious and non-religious public elementary, middle and upper schools in the state violated religious liberty.
They argued that Danville was being treated differently than secular businesses and that the academy requires in-person instruction of its students.