Thanks to President Donald Trump, the Supreme Court bench currently skews to the right — but that doesn’t mean conservatives will score big wins every time around.
In a shocking and disappointing decision Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a private Christian school in Kentucky that had challenged Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order temporarily banning all in-person learning in the state amid concerns about rising cases of COVID-19, the Washington Examiner reported.
The high court’s majority reasoned that since Beshear’s order was set to expire within a matter of days because of the Christmas holiday break, and since in-person classes were already scheduled to resume with the start of the new semester on Jan. 4, any intervention by the court would be unnecessary and too late to have any sort of tangible impact.
The majority did, however, leave the door wide open for the same case to be reheard if the governor reimposes the prohibition on in-person learning after the start of the new year, the Examiner noted.
The courts weigh in
The lawsuit, filed by the Danville Christian Academy and joined by Republican Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, argued that the Kentucky governor had treated private religious schools differently than secular businesses and institutions with two recent executive orders.
Issued on the same day, Nov. 18, Beshear’s two orders imposed stricter guidelines on Kentuckians with the hope of curbing the spread of COVID-19. The first mandated the closure of all public and private K-12 schools through the remainder of the semester, while the second was geared toward businesses.
But other than naming some capacity restrictions and limiting indoor dining, the orders did little to stop most secular businesses from operating normally, the plaintiffs argued.
In that light, the Christian school sought an injunction to block the orders and allow it to reopen its doors to students. But by the time the case got to the Supreme Court, the justices apparently believed it to be moot.
“Even in a crisis”
The unsigned majority opinion stated that, due to the “timing and the impending expiration” of the order, intervention at this late stage would be pointless.
It’s a position that was soundly rejected by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, who argued that regardless of the timing or impending expiration of the closure order, the school’s rights had still be violated and deserved remedy.
Alito encouraged the school to “file a new request for a preliminary injunction” if Beshear “does not allow classes to begin after the turn of the year,” and said that “if the lower courts do not provide relief, the applicants may of course return to this Court.”
According to Kelly Shackelford, Danville Christian Academy’s lead attorney and the president of the nonprofit First Liberty Institute, that’s exactly what the school plans to do. “The courts need to send a message to Governor Beshear and government officials around the nation that our God-given rights are still protected, even in a crisis, and especially from irrational and discriminatory government orders,” Shackelford said, according to the Examiner.