Kentucky AG: Gov can’t close religious schools amid pandemic

FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2019, file photo, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, left, talks about the role of attorney general in Frankfort, Ky., shortly before Daniel Cameron, right, is sworn in as Kentucky's attorney general. Partisan bickering is nothing new in Kentucky, but tensions are ratcheting up as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Beshear, a Democrat, is fending off legal challenges from Cameron, a Republican, over his executive actions during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner, File)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s attorney general has ruled that the state cannot force religious schools to close as long as they are following health recommendations put in place to protect against the coronavirus.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron wrote in the opinion that a forced closure of religious schools by Gov. Andy Beshear would violate the U.S. Constitution and state law, news outlets reported.

When asked about the opinion, Beshear said Wednesday that “nobody is trying to close any school that is complying with guidelines and preventing outbreaks.”

“I don’t know where that came from,” the Courier-Journal quoted him as saying.

Republican state Sen. Wil Schroder requested the opinion, according to the ruling.

Cameron said in a statement that religious schools were protected by the Constitution, even during the pandemic.

“Religiously affiliated schools are an important extension of faith for many Kentucky families, and the state cannot prevent them from operating so long as necessary health precautions are observed,” according to the statement.

The opinion comes after Beshear recommended Kentucky schools begin the year with online learning until Sept. 28 to give more time to bring a recent surge in virus cases under control.

The Archdiocese of Louisville and other religious schools, as well as some public districts, have decided to move ahead with or have already begun reopening for in-person classes, the newspaper said. Others have said they plan to start virtually.