Hermiston Christian School was initially told that students would be allowed to return for in-person instruction this fall, so officials spent months putting together new safety guidelines to make sure the reopening process was conducted safely.
The Oregon Department of Education approved of Hermiston’s guidelines and noted that the “facility is very clean and organized,” and that the school’s staff “were very well prepared and are following the Health and Safety Guidelines.”
But on July 29, Brown suddenly reversed course and ordered private schools, such as Hermiston Christian, to remain closed.
At the same time, she gave public schools with 75 or fewer students the right to reopen. When confronted about this double standard, Brown argued she was trying to prevent a “mass exodus” from public schools.
“Gov. Brown’s personal preference for public over private education does not permit her to discriminate against faith-based schools,” said David Cortman, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, in a statement.
“Public health crises do not suspend the Constitution or permit elected leaders to favor secular public schools by granting them unique exceptions,” he said.
The state government is also threatening private schools that defy Brown’s order with 30 days jail time and $1,250 fines.
In its lawsuit, Hermiston argued that Brown’s order needlessly discriminates against private schools that are performing the same function as public ones.
“[Brown’s order] is unconstitutional and makes no sense,” the lawsuit reads. “The virus does not discriminate between public and religious schools; neither should the government.”
This is not the only lawsuit Brown faces. Last week, a group of Oregon Republicans similarly sued the governor over her coronavirus restrictions, arguing her executive orders usurped legislative authority and infringed upon Oregonians’ rights.