Federal Judge Overrules Kentucky’s Temporary Ban On Church Gatherings Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

A picture of a church.
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A federal judge has overruled a temporary ban on mass gatherings in Kentucky, allowing the church that filed the lawsuit and others in the state to hold in-person services on Sundays.

As The Hill reported, U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove issued the temporary restraining order on a ban put in place by Gov. Andy Beshear as part of the state’s restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville had filed the lawsuit, seeking to hold services and now opening the door for others to follow suit.

In the ruling, Van Tatenhove wrote that the state must still abide by the U.S. Constitution.

“The Constitution will endure. It would be easy to put it on the shelf in times like this, to be pulled down and dusted off when more convenient,” the federal judge said in his ruling. “But that is not our tradition. Its enduring quality requires that it be respected even when it is hard.”

The report added that two other federal judges have ruled against Beshear’s ban on gatherings, calling it unconstitutional.

Beshear had laid out a phased-in reopening plan for the state that would have allowed religious organizations to start holding in-person services on May 20. Beshear said that these places of worship would still face other restrictions, including limiting attendance to one-third of the building’s capacity and having congregants remain six feet apart while inside.

Under Beshear, Kentucky has taken an aggressive approach in calling on churches to close their doors. As The Inquisitr reported, the state warned residents not to attend in-person services on Easter Sunday and said that state troopers would be recording the license plate numbers of those who showed up at church, forcing anyone who attended to go into self-isolation.

As Beshear said in announcing the move, it was a matter of public safety to keep people from gathering in groups.

“Local health officials then will contact the people associated with those vehicles and require them to self-quarantine for 14 days. This is the only way we can ensure that your decision doesn’t kill someone else,” Beshear said.

At that time, a handful of churches across the state were advertising in-person services for the Christian holiday, though many more had moved their services online. Some of those churches were openly defiant of the state’s restrictions, saying they would not abide by Beshear’s ban.

Kentucky has had more than 6,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and close to 300 deaths.