The court allows Ky. church drive-in services say bans have ‘potential signs of discrimination’

A federal court Saturday allowed Maryville Baptist Church and its pastor, Dr. Jack Roberts, of Kentucky to conduct driveway services and prohibited enforcement of state COVID-19 orders.

While U.S. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the extension of the injunction to personal services, it noted, Gov. Andy Beshear’s ban on faith-based mass gatherings has “several potential differences of discrimination” as it provides exceptions to certain secular activities such as laundries and liquor stores, but not faith groups.

“Assuming all the same precautions are taken, why is it safe to wait in a car where a liquor store opens, but dangerous to wait in a car to hear morning prayers?” the court asked. “So far, the governor has offered no good reason to refuse to trust the ecclesiastes who promise to use care in worship in the same way it has trusted accountants, lawyers and laundromat workers to do the same.”

The conservative Christian legal nonprofit Liberty Counsel celebrated the partial emergency injunction from a unanimous three-judge panel.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron had filed an amicus brief in support of the church, stating that “the court should file a lapse pending appeal ‘to prevent irreparable harm.'”

The court also stated in its ruling that the church is likely to succeed in the First Amendment Freedom Restoration Act and the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Through an executive order in March, Beshear banned faith-based mass gatherings, while exempting secular organizations and activities, including typical office environments, factories and retail or grocery stores, Cameron’s office NOTED.

The order said although permissible secular activities involved the presence of groups of people, they could continue as long as individuals “maintain appropriate social distance.” Faith-based assemblies received no exception.

“Sure, the church may be using zoom services or the like … But who’s to say that every member of the congregation has access to the technology needed to make it work?” the court asked. “Or to say that every member of the congregation should see it as an appropriate substitute for what it means when” two or three gather in my name. “Matthew 18:20.”

It added, “The extent of the ban on religious services, along with a haven for several secular exceptions, should give pause to anyone who praises religious freedom. But it’s not always easy to decide what is Caesar’s and what is God’s – and it’s certainly true in the context of a pandemic. ”

At a news conference Wednesday, Beshear said retailers and worship houses could resume operations on May 20, according to WPSD Local.

“Where they will be able to perform personal services again with reduced capacity. We’re working on that. That’s probably a percentage of the coating that is allowed, “Beshear said. “All of this is contingent on being able to keep social distance, the kind of cleaning that needs to be done.

“And what our hope is is that the 20th that it allows is only the service itself. And then we work with faith leaders. We have already spoken to them and are encouraging. But working with them to see a gradual schedule where we can go from one experience to some of the other pieces that typically happens, such as Sunday School. But that right now would create a very different context. And then let’s start here, and then let’s have a good dialogue where we can work with those who were in our worship houses to have a plan to be able to do more as we go. ”

On Easter Sunday, Kentucky State Police are searching dropped down on the service of Maryville Baptist Church and made public notices of criminal trespassing on all cars in the parking lot, even as participating churches listen in their cars to the church’s drive-in service, according to Liberty Counsel.

The messages advised royals that they were subject to mandatory quarantine throughout the household because they were attending a worship service. Gov. Beshear also sent letters to vehicle owners and occupants, demanding quarantine with multiple threats of sanctions for failing to comply with government oversight.

Last month, Beshear also issued executive orders that limit travel in and out of state, except in certain limited circumstances, to help control the spread of coronavirus. Everyone who came in or returned from out of state was asked to quarantine for 14 days.

AG Cameron filed a motion at federal court last week, challenging the travel ban as unconstitutional. I have that too urged the governor to stop targeting faith-based gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic and allow royals to begin gathering in person again in the church.