Lankford Joins 37 Senate Republicans to File Brief Urging Supreme Court to Reaffirm Religious Liberty Still Exists in a Pandemic

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today joined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), David Perdue (R-GA), John Thune (R-SD) ,John Barasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Todd Young (R-IN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Boozman (R-AZ), Mike Braun (R-IN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Josh Hawley (R-MO), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), James Risch (R-ID), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Rick Scott (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Roger Wicker (R-MS), issued the following statement Friday regarding the amicus brief they are submitting to the Supreme Court concerning Danville Christian Academy v. Beshear after submitting an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court

in support of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s religious liberty lawsuit.

In the brief, the senators explain that the Constitution cannot permit the selective and overzealous targeting of religious institutions by local officials who seek to impose stricter restrictions in the name of public health than the restrictions enforced against similar but non-religious establishments. In this case, Governor Beshear in Kentucky has unconstitutionally ordered K-12 schools including religious schools to shut their doors while permitting preschools, colleges, business offices, entertainment venues, and many other secular institutions to remain open.

“Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our states and nation must continue to balance health, safety, and the protection of our constitutional rights,” said Lankford. “I am grateful Americans like those at Danville Christian Academy continue to press that our freedoms to live our faith and attend religious services and other faith-based activities should not be treated differently than secular activities and subjected to different restrictions. I urge the Court to preserve the First Amendment free exercise of faith for Kentuckians and all Americans.”

“Everyone understands this has been a challenging time for local leaders, but pandemics don’t erase our First Amendment rights,” said McConnell. “Courts have repeatedly had to defend Americans of faith from overzealous officials who have tried to treat religious institutions in a uniquely disfavored way relative to other parts of society. Enough is enough. I am proud that Kentucky’s own Attorney General Daniel Cameron is leading the way to defend the religious liberty of Kentuckians and all Americans.”

“I’m proud to co-lead this brief on behalf of all Kentuckians, whose fundamental right to religious liberty is guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and stand up to our power-hungry Governor who continues to overstep his authority with yet another unconstitutional shutdown of the free exercise of religion,” said Paul.

“Across the country, Democrat governors are using the pandemic as an excuse to trample Americans’ Constitutional rights, most especially their religious freedom,” said Loeffler. “Governor Beshear’s order is a complete disgrace to both common sense and the Constitution, and I am proud to join Majority Leader McConnell and Senator Paul in standing up for religious freedom.”  

“Democrats across the country have shown that they are willing to shut down houses of worship and religious schools,” said Perdue. “These decisions trample on the Constitutional rights of their citizens and are a disturbing overreach by the government. Religious schools are at the forefront of innovation in finding ways to keep their doors open and mitigate the effects of the coronavirus. Rather than using the heavy hand of government to trample on the constitutional rights of parents and these schools, we should be looking to their example as we work to get all kids safely back in the classroom, reopen the economy, and lead our country through this crisis.”

“When imposing coronavirus restrictions, lawmakers and other government officials need to exercise the greatest respect for our first freedom – the free exercise of religion – and ensure that churches and other religious institutions are not subjected to disproportionately severe measures,” said Thune. “I’m hopeful that the Supreme Court will continue to safeguard religious freedom.”

“Religious liberty is a first freedom. Parents have a right to send their kids to religious schools,” said Barrasso. “For families, for parents, for kids, this case is crucial.”

“It is completely unconstitutional to ban in-person religious activities when many other in-person secular activities face no similar restrictions,” said Blunt. “There are precautions we need to take to protect public health and safety. Those precautions do not require Americans to arbitrarily give up their constitutionally protected rights.”

“If people are permitted to congregate in casinos and shopping centers, folks can safely and responsibly go to church and kids to school,” said Ernst. “These orders are fundamentally unfair and in violation of basic constitutional rights, and that’s why we’re urging the Supreme Court to step in and uphold the freedoms of these institutions and individuals.”

“Irresponsible governors and mayors have exploited the pandemic to target religious schools and even church services for burdensome lockdowns. These politicians claim they’re acting impartially in the interest of public health,” said Cotton. “But there’s nothing impartial about shutting down religious institutions while allowing gambling parlors and entertainment venues to operate unimpeded. The Supreme Court should defend the free exercise of religion by striking down Kentucky’s unconstitutional and arbitrary lockdown.”

“Americans from all walks of life have made enormous and unprecedented sacrifices to curb the spread of this virus. But elected Democrats have continually exploited this crisis to abuse their power and impose authoritarian restrictions on Americans,” said Cruz. “According to Governor Beshear, during this pandemic Kentuckians can gamble, go to college, or shop in stores, all while sending their children to preschool, but not to religious K-12 schools. Governor Beshear’s orders not only subvert the Bill of Rights and our constitutional liberties, they will be profoundly destructive to students and families across the state who choose to send attend religious institutions. I’m proud to join my colleagues in asking the Sixth Circuit to consider the full scope of these orders and their violation of Kentuckians’ religious liberty.”

“Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution, and this amicus brief is in support of this foundational freedom,” said Hoeven.

“We all want COVID-19 defeated, but governors, mayors, and other leaders must not use this fight to violate constitutionally-protected rights like religious liberty,” said Hyde-Smith. “This amicus brief serves as a reminder that religious-based schools and other activities cannot be illegally restricted while other nonreligious activities are open for business.”

“There is nothing ‘neutral’ about an order that allows numerous secular entities, including preschools and universities, to continue operations while shutting down K-12 schools, including religious ones, said Inhofe. While liberal governors and mayors may abuse COVID restrictions in an effort to squash religious expression, I will continue to fight to ensure our First Amendment rights are protected.”

“Infringing on the First Amendment’s right to religious practice and education cannot be arbitrary, even in the midst of a pandemic,” said Moran. “In light of the facts, the Supreme Court should uphold this constitutional freedom.”

“Kentucky’s Governor wants to keep gambling parlors open and Christian schools shut. This is textbook nonsense that gets handed down by ignoramuses who can only get jobs in government. Bureaucrats don’t get to add ‘except during a pandemic’ to the First Amendment, and they cannot disregard religious liberty and due process during a public health crisis,” said Sasse. “The Supreme Court should rule again in favor of the First Amendment and slap down this nonsense from governors like Cuomo and Beshear.”

“I’ve said all along that students need to go to school. You can’t close down schools while allowing other establishments to open. It’s wrong,” said Rick Scott. “Parents need to have the option to decide what makes the most sense for their families.”

“Attempts by Democratic Governors, such as Governor Beshear, to treat Americans’ freedom of religion as a second class right must be stopped. Governor Beshear’s order is clearly not neutral and discriminates against faith-based schools which are prohibited from holding in-person classes,” said Tillis. “Faith based schools are a fundamental part of religious expression and Governor Beshear’s order must be enjoined.”

“The free exercise of religion is an inalienable right of all Americans,” said Wicker. “I am glad to join Leader McConnell and Sen. Paul in this effort to ensure religious freedom does not become a casualty of the pandemic.”