The Democrat mayor of Louisville, Kentucky tried to shut down a drive-in Easter church service last week, even threatening to record the license plates of those who attended. However, a federal judge wasn’t having it.
“On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” Judge Justin Walker wrote in his opinion this weekend. “That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion.”
“But two days ago, citing the need for social distancing during the current pandemic, Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer ordered Christians not to attend Sunday services, even if they remained in their cars to worship — and even though it’s Easter,” the Trump appointee continued.
Beyond all reason
Walker went on to condemn Fischer’s actions as “stunning,” “unconstitutional,” and “beyond all reason” before granting a temporary restraining order that blocked “enforcing; attempting to enforce; threatening to enforce; or otherwise requiring compliance with” his order.
The mayor’s order went beyond actions being taken by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. While he has also sought to limit gatherings and also threatened to record license plates, Beshear has said drive-in churches that abide by the CDC’s social distancing guidelines wouldn’t be affected, ABC News reported.
“This is a time and weekend, a whole week for multiple faiths, that is about faith. It’s about knowing we have faced as people – as Christians, as Jews, as members of many faiths – many difficult, dark times, and we have prevailed,” the governor said in a statement.
“We know that the weeks or the months ahead will be difficult. We know that there are going to be tougher days before there are easier days,” Beshear went on. “But we also know because we have faith that we are going to get through this and we are going to get through it together. We are going to pass this test of humanity.”
Other cases raise controversy
Louisville wasn’t the only place where an attempt to enforce social distancing requirements came into conflict with religious observance.
In Kansas, the state’s Supreme Court determined that legislators lacked the authority to overrule Gov. Laura Kelly’s prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people. However, the justices did not address whether the rule itself was constitutional.
Examples like these lead to a tweet from Attorney General Bill Barr’s spokesperson promising that the Department of Justice would soon be stepping in.
“During this sacred week for many Americans, AG Barr is monitoring govt regulation of religious services,” Kerri Kupec said on Friday evening.”
“While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs. Expect action from DOJ next week!”