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Supreme Court denies religious school challenge to Kentucky’s expiring COVID-19 restrictions

Richard Wolf, USA Today |

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Kentucky can force parochial as well as public schools to close temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic, but only because those restrictions are set to expire early next year.

Gov. Andrew Beshear ordered all public and private K-12 schools closed for in-person instruction beginning Nov. 23, limiting them to remote or virtual learning. The order allowed elementary schools that are not in hard-hit areas to reopen Dec. 7 but kept middle and high schools closed until Jan. 4.

Because the schools begin a holiday recess Friday, the justices did not insist that religious schools be allowed to open now. Instead, they denied a challenge from the state’s Republican attorney general and a religious school that argued the closings violated the Constitution’s promise of freedom of religion.

“We deny the application without prejudice to the applicants or other parties seeking a new preliminary injunction if the governor issues a school-closing order that applies in the new year,” the court said in an unsigned order.

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