Something for Which to be Thankful on Thanksgiving Day

I am thankful for the First Amendment to the Constitution, which protects my rights to say what I want and publish what I want. I am thankful for our First Amendment protection of our right to freely practice our faith. And I am thankful for Federal Judge Gregory van Tatenhove, appointed by the younger President George Bush, who understands that the First Amendment actually means what it says.

On May 8, 2020, Judge van Tatenhove ruled that Governor Andy Beshear’s executive order closing churches due to concerns about spreading COVID-19 was unconstitutional, a ruling which came too late in the process, as the Governor had successfully closed the churches for eight weeks.

Well, this time he wasn’t late. From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Judge rules Beshear cannot halt in-person classes at religious schools due to COVID-19

By Jack Brammer and Valarie Honeycutt Spears | November 25, 2020 | 8:01 PM EST

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear cannot close religious schools to help curb the coronavirus pandemic, a federal judge ruled Wednesday night.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove said in a 22-page order that he was granting a preliminary injunction to 17 private Christian schools that had filed a lawsuit against Beshear’s emergency restriction. He said his order would apply statewide.

He said the schools were “likely to succeed on the merits of the case.”

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron joined the plaintiffs in the suit against Beshear and Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball filed an amicus brief supporting the suit.

Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley said in an email the governor has appealed the decision to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Well, of course he has!

There’s a lot more at the link, including not only the Governor’s protest of the decision, but the comments of the schools, and First Liberty Institute‘s Chris Freund, the firm which represented the Christian schools.

“We are disappointed but not surprised that Judge Van Tatenhove, for the second time, has refused to acknowledge the U.S. Supreme Court decision that found an action like this is both legal and constitutional,” said Staley.

“We have already appealed to the Sixth Circuit and will request an emergency stay of the judge’s order, and, if necessary, will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Let’s be clear: lives are on the line and everyone must do their part to defeat the virus.”

Judge van Tatenhove noted that the Governor’s order closed all K-12 schools, even though it allowed colleges in the Commonwealth to remain open. The suing schools noted that they had spent considerable sums in reconfiguring classes and providing safety equipment to meet the PPE and social distancing requirements the Commonwealth has specified for other places to continue to meet and do business.

“The Governor has every right to impose some restrictions on all schools, religious and secular alike,” said Van Tatenhove. “Social distancing, face masks, limits on class size, reporting requirements and other protocols may cost money and may be inconvenient for parents and students, but we give executives increased discretion in time of crisis.

“But in an effort to do the right thing to fight the virus, the Governor cannot do the wrong thing by infringing protected values.”

That is the part that so many public officials have forgotten. Nothing in American law supersedes the Constitution, and our constitutionally protected rights.

I am thankful that I was born an American citizen, that we have a strict Constitution which recognizes our rights, not just as Americans, but as human beings. Citizens of other countries mostly do not have such protections.

And I am thankful for our Freedom of Peaceable Assembly, which allows my family to gather for this Thanksgiving Day, in a setting which will violate the Governor’s orders.
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