Ohio Attorney General Wrong To Insert State Into Religious School Lawsuit

The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) have issued the following statement on the brief filed by Ohio Attorney General David Yost in support of a lawsuit brought by three religious schools against a Lucas county public health order closing all schools in the county to in-person instruction.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2020

Ohio Attorney General Wrong To Insert State Into Religious School Lawsuit

Toledo  – The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) is extremely disappointed that Ohio Attorney General David Yost has decided to insert himself and the state into a Federal lawsuit by three Lucas County religious schools over the Lucas County Health Board’s order to close all schools in the county to in-person instruction until January 11, 2021 due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Like the original lawsuit, Attorney General Yost makes the same argument that was rejected by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick on December 14th, that the religious schools should be treated like non-education secular businesses that were allowed to stay open.

Judge Helmick stated in his decision:

“While, as Plaintiffs note, TLCHD has not ordered gyms, tanning salons, or casinos to close, (Doc. No. 1 at 5-6), these are not the relevant “comparable secular activities.” Instead, the comparable secular activities are educational classes offered by all other schools in Lucas County. These specific environments have substantially similar groupings and movements of individuals. Emmanuel Christian, St. John’s, and Monclova Christian are prohibited from offering in-person instruction to grades 9-12 (or grades 7-12) along with all other Lucas County schools “because the reasons for suspending in-person instruction apply precisely the same to them.””

Judge Helmick also noted that if we were to take the school’s argument to the logical conclusion, the state would not be able to regulate anything involved with a religious group.

“Plaintiffs’ arguments, therefore, would extend to prohibit the government from regulating any aspect of a Christian’s public life because, as Plaintiffs’ mission statements make clear, the purpose of providing “a biblical foundation for . . . students” is to prepare students “to exemplify Christ [and] make Biblically-based decisions” throughout an individual’s life, and not only during the schools years. Thus, a Christian business would be exempt from minimum wage and maximum hour laws,9 while Christians in states where officials have issued Covid-19-related orders closing restaurants for in-person dining could not be prohibited from gathering to share a meal in one of those restaurants.10

More closely to the issue at stake in this case, Plaintiffs’ arguments would mean States could not mandate that students attending parochial schools receive the equivalent number of hours required of public-school students or require that parochial schools provide courses in specific subjects.”

The lawsuit, instead of trying to protect the right of the schools to be treated equally, is trying to force the county to treat religious schools differently than other schools that have complied with the order. They want a court to force the county to give them preferential treatment just because they are religious.

This is the complete opposite meaning of the 1st amendment which is meant to keep religious activities from being singled out by the government for being religious.

“The fact remains, rightly or wrongly, that the Lucas County public health order specifically exempts in-person religious activities,” SHoWLE president Douglas Berger said. “We believe that churches and religious groups, including religious schools, should put the long-term health of their members above the need to gather together for their religious activities since those activities aren’t restricted to happening outside the home. It is for this reason the public health order, that explicitly exempts religious activities of the schools, isn’t an undue burden on them.”

It appears that Attorney General Yost has decided, after claiming he would defend state public health orders, and against the facts of the case, that preferential treatment for religious schools is in the state’s best interests.

We strongly disagree with his decision to insert the state in this case with his brief to the court.


Reference:

Ohio AG files brief supporting religious schools’ return to in-person instruction

Monclova Christian Academy et al v. Toledo-Lucas County Health Department 12/14/2020

SHoWLE President Douglas Berger discussed this case in Episode 16 of the Glass City Humanist podcast starting at the 08:34 mark.


About Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie

The mission of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie is to provide a supportive local community for humanists and other nontheists, while promoting an ethical, reasonable, and secular approach to life through education, community service, outreach, activism, and social events.

We envision a Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan where secular people are respected and integrated in broader society, live values of reason and compassion, and enjoy a friendly humanist community.

*Update* – On December 31, a three judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction to the schools against the public health order pending an appeal hearing.

People Need Help All Year. SHoWLE Wants To Get There

One of the things that SHoWLE does, that I would like to see do, is assist the community where we live. One project we completed for the second year was adopting a family through Lucas County Children Services for Christmas. Of course the question that get asks is why only at Christmas when families need help all year round? Why copy what other faith groups do? Those are valid questions and I’ll explain our philosophy about community projects.

Douglas Berger – President of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie

I am totally with those who complain about copying religious groups and pulling out the volunteering/donation machine only during the holiday season. I think only limiting such action to the holidays plays into the religious narrative that help is only needed during one time of the year so we feel better about not helping at other times.

The other consideration for year end donating is taxes. People who are able to deduct donations may want to wait until the end of the year to get their full return on the tax forms the next year.

Some non-profits also use the holiday season to raise awareness and donations about their cause during a time of the year when people are thinking about donating time, money, or things to those who are struggling.

The only obstacle to SHoWLE helping a family all year is we would need to have a group of members committed to helping all year. It would not be something to be thrown together at the last minute IF we have time. There will be times such an endeavor will be a grind and someone might not be “feeling it” that particular time or date. I know from past experience with the group I was part of in Columbus that even if you have five or six people saying they will help eventually it is left to one of two people to do all the work.

I won’t commit SHoWLE to a year long effort without knowing we have a solid commitment from volunteers to pull it off. I don’t want to see us commit to something and either fail to do it or do it half way. That would make us look bad in the community and might hurt future chances to work with other groups on other projects.

I just don’t think SHoWLE is big enough to sustain a year long effort to help a family at this time but we do have the capacity to participate in the limited holiday program through Lucas County although I did reduce the size of the family we helped from 3 people to two, this year, just so as not to stretch us too far.

SHoWLE will also try to help others if an emergency comes up. Last Christmas we were able to help a family that had been suddenly dropped by a company that had “adopted” them as part of their year end “giving back” to the community that many companies do on the holidays. We were able to pull together some extra resources so that family didn’t miss out because a company heartlessly changed it’s mind.

I am always open to new ideas. If someone is enthusiastic about some project and they pretty much do the leg work to get it setup and coordinate it then I am willing to try it and promote it to the rest of the group.

We’ve Adopted A Family For The Holidays

This year SHoWLE has been given a family to sponsor for the holidays through Lucas County Children’s Services. We will be helping out a 4 year old named DJ and his father Derrick.

If you would like to purchase a gift to donate just check out the needs and wants for the child and father and let Bev know what you plan to purchase so we can avoid duplication. (send her an email at bevzilla@yahoo.com)

Bev will also be hosting a wrap party at her house on Saturday December 12 at 1 PM to wrap the gifts in a socially distant and safe manner. If you can donate wrapping paper or ribbon that would be appreciated. Please contact Bev for more information on the party.

We Made A Mistake

Thanks to a member, we found out we had a mistake in our treasury reporting. It involved how we reported donations coming from people using PayPal. No donations were lost, only the summaries we created didn’t record the donations as donations. Fiscal Year 2020 has been corrected where the issue occurred and summaries that have been updated are marked with “Corrected”on our Monthly Treasury Summary page. Fiscal Year 2019 will be checked this weekend and summaries will be corrected if needed.

Continue reading “We Made A Mistake”