Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said he is suing Gov. Andy Beshear in an attempt to keep private religious schools open amid a state order to keep classes virtual during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cameron told "Fox & Friends" on Monday that while he respects Beshear’s “responsibility to keep people safe,” the state must “safeguard” religious freedoms and protect First Amendment rights.
“And so when you tell folks who send [students] to religious-affiliated schools, which is an act of worship within itself, that they cannot go to school, it infringes upon the First Amendment rights,” he continued.
“You have to have a delicate balance in terms of keeping people safe and respecting the constitutional rights of our citizens,” Cameron stressed. “What he [Beshear] has done repeatedly is infringe upon the First Amendment free exercise of religion here in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”
He added that his “responsibility as the chief legal officer here in the commonwealth is to defend our constitutional rights,” citing his reasoning for suing the governor.
Last week, an emergency hearing took place after Cameron and the First Liberty Institute filed a petition seeking a temporary restraining order on Beshear. In the petition, Cameron argued that Beshear's latest executive order infringed on Danville Christian Academy's and other religious schools' constitutional freedoms.
Beshear's executive order, which was issued earlier this month, argued that the state was "experiencing a potentially catastrophic surge in COVID-19 cases" and that Kentucky law granted him the authority to close all public and private schools for grades K-12.
Speaking on CNN on Tuesday, Beshear said, “As far as the schools, we’re treating everybody the same, asking everybody to share this sacrifice.
“These same folks have sued us every time we have tried to do something to stop Covid-19,” he added. “Right now we can either all work towards the solution … or some of us can try to knock down the steps that we take and the result is additional lost life that we can avoid.”
On Sunday, a three-judge Circuit Court panel sided against Cameron in his lawsuit to keep classrooms at religious schools open amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Courier Journal reported.
“We’ve had over 1,500 parents join us in this litigation. We’ve had over almost 10 schools, Christian-affiliated schools, join us in this litigation as well,” Cameron noted on Monday.
“We won at the federal district court, who said that … it was appropriate to issue a statewide injunction because it infringed upon First Amendment rights,” he continued. “A panel at the the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and stayed that injunction and so now we’re ready to send our case to the Supreme Court.”
He went on to say, “We’ll be applying for review by the Supreme Court hopefully today.”
The lawsuit was just one in a series around the country that raised questions about the extent to which authorities could limit constitutional freedoms when declaring a public health crisis. Other jurisdictions like New York City have also announced shutdowns as the country saw a surge in cases.
On Sunday, less than two weeks after Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, announced that schools were shutting down because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the city, he reversed his decision and said that the city's public schools will reopen on Dec. 7 for 3-K, pre-K and kindergarten through fifth grade.
Agencies, like UNICEF, have warned about the impact closures have on the lives of children. Earlier this month, the United Nation's agency said evidence showed "the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them."
Cameron said on Monday that he “wholeheartedly” agrees that children should be back in school, adding that he knows “over 1,500 parents who send children to private-religiously affiliated schools agree with that sentiment.”
“I’ll even go even further to say I believe most Kentucky parents want their kids back in school,” he continued.
“It is fundamental that our kids get back and improve upon and progress in their own educational development. That’s core to progress in our communities here at home and across the country.”
Fox News’ Sam Dorman and Evie Fordham contributed to this report.