Federal judge rules all Kentucky churches can have in-person services

Stock church photo (Pixabay)
Stock church photo (Pixabay)(Pixabay)
Updated: May. 9, 2020 at 2:44 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WVLT/WKYT) - A federal judge ruled all Kentucky churches can hold in-person services beginning Sunday, May, 10.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled churches can open so long as they practice social distancing and hygiene guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The ruling was a part of the lawsuit Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville, Ky., filed against Governor Andy Beshear, WKYT reported.

In the lawsuit, the churches legal team said Gov. Beshear's orders, "unlawfully target religious worship and violate the First Amendment.”

The judge said meeting in-person was 'essential' for the church. Judge Van Tatenhove said while Gov. Beshear can put a stop to that, with reason, that reason does not exist despite "an honest motive."

Gov. Beshear’s legal team has argued in this lawsuit and similar ones that the ban on mass gatherings is constitutional because it is applied to all mass gatherings, not religious ones specifically.

"The orders at issue do not simply restrict religious expression; they restrict religious expression in an attempt to protect the public health during a global pandemic," Judge Van Tatenhove wrote in his ruling.

"Evidence that the risk of contagion is heightened in a religious setting any more than a secular one is lacking," wrote Judge Van Tatenhove, "If social distancing is good enough for Home Depot and Kroger, it is good enough for in-person religious services which, unlike the foregoing, benefit from constitutional protection."

Judge Van Tatenhove granted the church's request for a temporary restraining order, which will apply to all churches in Kentucky.

Copyright 2020 WVLT via WKYT. All rights reserved.