In-Person Church Services Win in KY

May 9, 2020

BULLITT COUNTY, KY – Last night, Liberty Counsel won an injunction from a Kentucky federal District Court granting its request for in-person church services on behalf of Maryville Baptist Church and its pastor Dr. Jack Roberts. 

Last Saturday afternoon, the federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in a 3-0 opinion granted an emergency injunction allowing parking lot services. The order was broad enough to cover in-person services, but due to the time constraints, the Court of Appeals ordered the lower court to immediately review and report back. After additional briefing this week, the District Court, applying the ruling of the Court of Appeals, granted the injunction for in-person services, thus blocking Gov. Andy Beshear from further enforcement. 

The Court ruled that the church is likely to succeed on the merits of the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause and the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a compelling amicus brief last week in support of Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit against Beshear, stating: “The Court should enter an injunction pending appeal ‘to prevent irreparable harm.’”

The March 19 and 25 orders issued by Gov. Beshear prohibit ALL religious services, while allowing many secular exemptions. 

Liberty Counsel sued Governor Beshear after Kentucky State Police descended on the church’s Easter Sunday service and posted notices of criminal violation on all cars in the parking lot, even while the church attendees were listening in their cars to the church’s “drive-in” service. The notices advised congregants they were subject to mandatory, household-wide quarantine just for attending a church service. Then Gov. Beshear sent letters to the owners and occupants of the vehicles demanding quarantine with more threats of sanctions for not complying with government supervision. 

Liberty Counsel’s case is also still pending at the Court of Appeals. Yesterday afternoon, a few hours before the lower court granting the in-person injunction, the Court of Appeals requested that an updated status to determine when the lower court would rule, as the Court of Appeals ordered the matter be decided immediately. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “I am pleased that Gov. Andy Beshear has been stopped from sending law enforcement to intimidate and harass churchgoers. The governor’s orders banning all religious gatherings have been stopped cold. The state has no authority to dictate the manner and form of worship for every church.” 

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