KENTUCKY — The Courier Journal is reporting a federal judge ruled Friday that churches across Kentucky may hold in-person services starting Sunday, May 10.
The Courier Journal says U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove awarded Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville a temporary restraining order against Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order barring in-person church services. Beshear says it’s to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The defense for Tabernacle claimed Beshear’s order was unconstitutional because it went against the First Amendment right of freedom of religion. Defense attorneys, including Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, said churches shouldn’t be prohibited from holding in-person services if stores are reopening and people are gathering in conference rooms.
The Courier Journal reports attorney Travis Mayo said shopping visits are primarily going in to grab what you need and getting out of the store without spending extra time inside. Mayo said church services, however, lasted longer where people gathered and sat together.
Two other federal judges in Kentucky had previously ruled Beshear’s order as constitutional. The Courier Journal says the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to Judge David Hale of Louisville, who then issued an injunction against the order enforcement Friday, pending the state’s appeal.
According to Beshear’s reopening plan had churches reopening with limitations May 20.