A county in Texas is allowing two private Christian schools to hold in-person class instruction, despite earlier issuing a ban on such practices for public and private schools.
Cameron County officials had previously prohibited all schools, including Laguna Madre Christian Academy and Calvary Christian School of Excellence, from holding in-person classes.
However, the First Liberty Institute, a law firm representing both schools, announced last Thursday that the county would allow the schools to hold in-person instruction.
Both schools intend to enact safety measures to help curb the risk of spreading the coronavirus, including social distancing and the wearing of facemasks.
Jeremy Dys, special counsel for Litigation and Communications at First Liberty, said in a statement that his organization was “pleased” with the county decision.
“We are pleased that Cameron County has approved of the careful work Laguna Madre Christian Academy and Calvary Christian School have put into safely resuming in-person classes,” stated Dys.
“As Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made clear weeks ago, local officials serve their community best by respecting the religious liberty of religious institutions.”
In July, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a guidance letter to private schools informing them that they were exempted from any local school district closures.
“Under the Governor’s orders, local governments are prohibited from closing religious institutions or dictating mitigation strategies to those institutions,” wrote Paxton.
“Local governments are similarly prohibited from issuing blanket orders closing religious private schools. Because a local order closing a religious private school or institution is inconsistent with the Governor’s order, any local order is invalid to the extent it purports to do so.”
Initially, Cameron County Chief Legal Counsel Juan Gonzalez rejected the request of Laguna Madre to hold in-person classes, claiming that the Paxton guidance was invalid.
“Cameron county is of the opinion that Paxton’s guidance is not grounded in legitimate or correct legal analysis,” wrote Gonzalez, as reported by local media outlet KVEO. “Further, it is nothing more than an opinion and does not have controlling legal authority over the situation.”
Last month, the Christian school expressed their plans to hold classes despite the local order and First Liberty sent a letter to Gonzales on their behalf.
“LMCA certainly appreciates the delicate situation presented by COVID-19,” wrote Dys at the time. “Nonetheless, we must insist that Cameron County respect the laws and fundamental freedoms of this state and nation.”