As Ronald Reagan might have said to embattled Oregon Democrat Gov. Kate Brown, “There you go again.” Now a small Christian school in Oregon is suing Brown and other state officials after claiming the state is discriminating against private and religious schools by keeping them locked down while allowing public schools to reopen.
The lawsuit claims that Brown has allowed public schools with less than 75 students to reopen, but has continued her ban on the reopening of private/religious schools that meet the same qualifying number of student enrollment, as reported by the Daily Wire.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the suit late last week on behalf of Hermiston Christian School, a K-12 school in Hermiston, Oregon, which has a student enrollment of 51; well under the maximum 75-student threshold for reopening.
The lawsuit reads in part:
“After 41 years of faithful service, Hermiston Christian School (‘HCS’) could be forced to shut its doors for good unless the Court stops an obvious case of discrimination: Defendants’ COVID-19 orders and guidance generally prohibit in-person instruction but grant a ‘small school’ exception to public schools while denying the same exception to private religious schools (‘Religious School Closure’) in Umatilla County.”
According to the Daily Wire, the lawsuit claims that Brown initially led the school’s administrators to believe they would be allowed to resume in-person education if they met certain health guidelines, but that she reversed course and ordered the closing of private schools in both Umatilla County and other parts of the state on July 29.
Public schools, however, were granted an exemption if they maintained 75 students or fewer. Violators of the governor’s continuing ban face a potential 30-day jail term and a fine of $1,250. The lawsuit alleges that Brown allowed small public schools to reopen because she feared declining public school enrollment.
The reason for Defendants’ discriminatory treatment is clear: on the very same day that Defendants continued their prohibition of in-person instruction for religious schools, a policy advisor and liaison for Governor Brown discussed the potential for a ‘mass exodus’ of children from public schools and emphasized that public schools could suffer a reduction in funding if students disenrolled to obtain education elsewhere.
Kate Broadman, M.D., a pediatrician in Bend, Oregon, who is the parent of three school-aged children, believes the state’s draconian school reopening guidelines continue to put the COVID-19 burden on kids. In an op-ed published by The Oregonian, Broadman said Brown’s “misguided measures” can cause “irreparable harm” to children.
“While schools around the country, including in Washington and California, have begun to reopen in large numbers, the vast majority of Oregon students remain at home doing some form of distance learning.
“As a physician, I believe strongly in public health measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 to our communities; but as a pediatrician and advocate for children, it pains me to see misguided measures such as this that cause irreparable harm to so many children with little benefit.”
Broadman pointed to the inconsistency of Brown’s lockdown edict — a criticism that has marred her handling of the virus for months.
“Currently in Oregon, adults can visit bars, gyms and nail salons, and kids can attend indoor play areas and trampoline zones, not to mention childcare in their very schools. Yet the one service that remains closed — that we seem to have decided is dispensable — is in-person education. This is a catastrophic disservice to our students and teachers.”
As is the case with the examples in the above quote, Broadman believes that the continuing school shutdowns are no longer necessary, as well.
“Children are being forced to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of COVID-19 mitigation measures, particularly given the relatively low risk to themselves from the disease. We know that access to schools is critical for children’s short-term safety and long-term well-being.
“Additionally, there is growing evidence that schools can be opened safely, without significant risk to teachers or increasing community spread. Numerous European countries reopened months ago with hygiene measures in place that are similar to those proposed by our state (masking, distancing, etc.) and have found no corresponding increase in infections; similarly, schools in many US states have now been open for several weeks without a corresponding surge in infections.
“So far, data shows that school infection patterns for K-12 tend to mirror what is happening in the community at large, rather than contributing to spread.
For whatever reason — as previously noted, perhaps fear of declining enrollment — Brown relented and allowed the small public schools to reopen. But why not small religious schools? “The Religious School Closure is unconstitutional and makes no sense,” the suit contends. “The virus does not discriminate between public and religious schools; neither should the government. There is no basis for Defendants to grant a special exception for public schools while denying the same treatment to religious schools.”
ADF senior counsel Ryan Tucker said in a statement.
“There is no legitimate reason for allowing public schools with 75 or fewer students to provide in-person instruction while denying the same opportunity to small private schools, including religious ones.
“Hermiston Christian School operates in the same county as a public school that is open, and it operates with the same number of students, who are performing the same type of activity, working in an even larger physical environment, and complying with the same health and safety protocols.
“Gov. Brown’s refusal to extend the same treatment to Hermiston Christian School as she does to small public schools violates the U.S. Constitution and discriminates against parents who choose to provide a religious education for their children.”
Unconstitutional religious persecution — on the part of a left-wing governor who continues to rule her state with a power-drunk vengeance? You make the call.