Judges rule against Gov’s order banning religious mass gatherings

Two federal judges have ruled that houses of worship can meet this weekend with social distancing guidelines in place after hearing arguments against Governor Andy Beshear’s ban on mass gatherings.

U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove ruled the state cannot prohibit mass gatherings “with respect to any in-person religious service which adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines.”

An attorney for Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville and an assistant attorney general argued the order discriminated against free exercise of religion, according to a Courier Journal story, because people are still allowed to shop at essential businesses and they can gather in conference rooms of law firms and other private businesses.

The governor’s attorney argued the shopping trips are “transitory” as customers get what they need and then leave.

Judge David Hale of Louisville issued an injunction against enforcement of the governor’s order banning religious gatherings after the U.S. Court of Appeals sent a case back to him.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron urged houses of worship to “prayerfully and carefully consider when it is the right time to resume in-person services consistent with health guidelines.” He says while the rulings “protect the religious liberty of Kentuckians, we must continue to do our part to protect the health of our fellow citizens by reopening carefully.”