A network of Christian schools in Ohio filed a lawsuit Monday against the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department (TLCHD) for ordering all schools to close their buildings for six weeks to prevent spreading the coronavirus.
The Ohio Christian Education Network (OCEN) and three Christian Schools say the mandate is unconstitutional and disregards medical data showing that schools are safe for children, according to Citizens for Community Values.
Enough is enough. @ToledoLucasHD has overstepped its authority & violated the religious freedom rights of Evangelical & Catholic schools in Lucas County.
That’s why today the Ohio Christian Education Network and three Christian Schools filed suit. https://t.co/Q48VPirEFp
— Citizens for Community Values (@CCVOhio) December 7, 2020
"First Amendment freedoms don't go on a holiday break," said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values, which operates OCEN. "The Lucas County Health Department has not only violated the religious liberty rights of Christian schools and students by denying them the right to provide religious instruction, but they've threatened the futures and mental health of Lucas County students."
Baer added that "Despite all the medical evidence and experts that continue to say one of the safest places for children to be is in school, Lucas County has taken aggressive action to deny children the right to in-person education. Meanwhile, they've let casinos, strip clubs, liquor stores, and concerts continue. We cannot sit idly by while children and freedoms are being harmed."
Monclova Christian Academy, St. John's Jesuit High School and Academy, and Emmanuel Christian School are listed in the lawsuit as plaintiffs.
The suit points out that "For many parents, teachers, and private school administrators, providing faith-based instruction is an act of worship," therefore these restrictions violate their religious freedom.
Legal counsel Brian Fox with Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP filed the complaint on behalf of OCEN and the Christian schools.
"Regardless of how well-intentioned TLCHD may be, the Resolution is misguided and violates the federal Constitution by burdening religious institutions yet failing to prohibit other gatherings that pose more sinister health risks to community spread," the complaint reads.
The order directs all Lucas County schools, including public, private, charter, and parochial institutions, to close all buildings from Dec. 4 to Jan. 11, with several exceptions.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, Fox sent a letter to a director of the health board requesting a meeting with the Christian schools over their concerns with the order.
"OCEN and Member Schools prefer to sit down with the Board to discuss how to best balance competing interests to develop the most reasonable path forward for our students and the safety of our community," the letter states.
But, this effort was overlooked.
WATCH: President Aaron Baer explains in a video why the coalition had no alternative but to file suit against TLCHD.
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