An Ohio federal appellate court agreed with a group of faith-based schools that the Toledo-Lucas County health department violated their First Amendment rights by requiring the schools to close in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, according to The Christian Post.
The health department mandated that all schools from seventh to twelfth grade, including private schools, close for five weeks from Dec. 7 to Jan. 8. Comparable secular businesses, however, were permitted to remain open.
The three-judge panel on the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, sided with the nine Christian schools who filed a lawsuit against the county.
“Today’s order is a victory for families, for religious freedom, and for all those willing to courageously stand up against unnecessary and overreaching government orders,” said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values. “Lucas County families have suffered plenty through this pandemic, and to unreasonably deny their children in-person education is unconscionable.”
“The First Amendment does not take a holiday break,” he continued. “It was clear from the outset that the Lucas County Health Board’s order closing schools violated the Constitution. It is indefensible and irrational to block children from accessing in-person instruction, while allowing casinos, gyms, liquor stores, and other public places to remain open.”
The nine schools included Monclova Christian Academy, St. John’s Jesuit High School and Academy, Emmanuel Christian School and six others affiliated with the Ohio Christian Education Network, managed by a conservative Christian advocacy group.
School leaders worried not only about the harm done to their student’s education, but also the harm done to their spiritual and mental health. A recent survey conducted by Gallup showed that Americans who attend church did not suffer mentally in 2020, unlike many others.
The federal court referred to the recent Supreme Court decision in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo case that also reversed the state’s restrictions on houses of worship. Judges in that case believed the governor had imposed unfair restrictions on churches, mosques, and synagogues while allowing secular institutions freedom to continue operating, despite the risk of spreading COVID-19.
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Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine.