A Kentucky religious school has defied state order to close in-person learning amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, despite a recent court ruling affirming the mandate.
Classes at the Maryville Independent Christian Academy of Hope reportedly remained in session on Tuesday even after the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed an order to close schools from Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. Maryville Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Jack Roberts, who is also the school’s administrator, told WHAS that the governor’s mandates “aren’t really law.”
“We all know that he can mandate anything he wants, but the legislature has to make laws,” Roberts told the station.
Roberts previously defied an order from Beshear that limited mass gatherings early on in the pandemic by holding services on Easter Sunday. The pastor also sued Beshear over the order, alleging that it violated his congregation’s constitutional rights, but the restraining order request was denied by a federal judge in April, according to WHAS.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued an injunction blocking New York’s governor from enforcing a similar order limiting mass gatherings at religious institutions.
Maryville Independent Christian Academy of Hope was among a number of schools included in a suit against Beshear by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron over the order to close in-person learning. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in Beshear’s favor on Sunday, stating in its opinion that the order was “neutral and generally applicable” to all K-12 schools.
“The contours of the order at issue here also in no way correlate to religion, and cannot be plausibly read to contain even a hint of hostility towards religion,” the opinion said.
Cameron filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.
Beshear said the opinion recognized the danger to the health of “Kentucky children, educators and families” in a statement issued Sunday on the ruling.
“Almost every county is in the red zone, we have nearly 10,000 students and staff in quarantine over the past two-weeks, our hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed and we have lost nearly 1,900 fellow Kentuckians, including health care workers, a teacher and a 15-year-old student,” Beshear said. “To help save more lives and defeat this virus we need everyone to do their part.”
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Maryville school’s continued in-person education.
Roberts told WHAS Tuesday that he intends to continue in-person education, even if the case is lost at the Supreme Court.
“We'll have to give account to the supreme God of heaven as to how we do things,” Roberts said. “That’s the conviction we have as to why we are still here and why we're still open.”
Roberts did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News Thursday.
Kentucky reported its sixth-highest day for new Covid-19 cases and a record high for coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday. The state has had more than 186,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 1,943 deaths as of Thursday afternoon.