Christian school fighting county over delayed in-person instruction

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Editors note: First Liberty Institute has received word from the county that they will allow the school to open on August 31.  

A statement from Jeremy Dys: 

“We are grateful that Cameron County officials recognize that Laguna Madre Christian Academy is able to begin meeting again safely.  We trust that officials will take similar action for our other client, Calvary Christian School of Excellence, recognizing the significant thought and planning that they have done to ensure the safety and health of their community as they also begin face-to-face instruction on September 8.” 

LAGUNA VISTA, Texas (KVEO) — Laguna Madre Christian School is fighting Cameron County’s order to delay face-to-face instruction. 

The school, made up of only 20 students and five teachers, is being represented by attorneys from First Liberty Institute

The school plans to begin in-person instruction on August 31. 

Attorney Jeremy Dys said the county does not have the right to keep the school closed. 

“That is inconsistent with not only the previous executive order in place by Governor Abbott but also the guidance that has been issued to private and religious schools in particular by Attorney General Ken Paxton,” said Dys.  

Last month, Paxton’s guidance said counties could not issue blanket orders closing religious private schools. 

In his July 17 notice to religious schools, Paxton wrote: 

“Under the Governor’s orders, local governments are prohibited from closing religious institutions or dictating mitigation strategies to those institutions. Local governments are similarly prohibited from issuing blanket orders closing religious private schools.” 

“To suggest that 20 people can gather in Walmart all day long, but 20 students can’t go to school again, separated by social distancing and masks, is just something very hard to swallow,” said Dys. 

The school reached out to the county and received a response August 13 from Juan Gonzalez, Cameron County Chief Legal Counsel.  

In the response Gonzalez wrote:  

“Cameron county is of the opinion that Paxton’s guidance is not grounded in legitimate or correct legal analysis. Further, it is nothing more than an opinion and does not have controlling legal authority over the situation.” 

“The law is fairly clear on this, while the county can certainly ask and make requests, and provide good information useful to the decision making process of these religious institutions, they are entitled to a degree of autonomy under Supreme Court law and in the law of the state of Texas as well.,” said Dys. “If the county decides to take action to enforce its unlawful order, then we’ll have no choice but to make a very vigorous defense of that action.”

KVEO has reached out to Judge Eddie Treviño and Chief Legal Counsel Juan Gonzalez. We have not heard back.   

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