Court weighs in on applying mass gathering ban to churches

Court weighs in on applying mass gathering ban to churches

On April 25, a federal appeals court upheld Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s temporary ban on in-person worship gatherings while approving drive-in services – an alternative that the governor has encouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beshear announced recently that churches would be allowed to begin holding in-person services beginning May 20.

In their ruling, the three-judge panel that upheld Beshear’s ban weighed the significance of secular exemptions to the shutdown order, which include grocery stores, banks, pharmacies and hardware stores.

Acknowledging that all restrictions on religious services should alarm “anyone who prizes religious freedom,” the panel said, “It’s not always easy to decide what is Caesar’s and what is God’s – and that’s assuredly true in the context of a pandemic.”

Attorneys from Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal organization, represented Maryville Baptist Church in the case.

The attorneys called the court’s ruling as a victory, claiming that the current pandemic does not suspend legal rights, and that the court claimed Beshear’s bans include, “several potential hallmarks of discrimination.”

“Why can someone safely walk down a grocery store aisle but not a pew?” said Liberty Counsel’s attorneys. (AP)