When a Christian church in Louisville, Kentucky, was told they were not allowed to attend Easter Sunday church service in their vehicles, the group sued the liberal mayor giving the order, and the city. A federal judge ruled Saturday that the church was right about their religious liberties being violated, permitted the establishment to hold drive-up service, and offered a firm rebuke of the mayor for attempting to “criminalize” the “celebration of Easter.”
On Fire Christian Church sued Mayor Greg Fischer and the city on Friday, arguing the mayor’s order banning drive-up service was in violation of their First Amendment rights, particularly since the churchgoers would be practicing safe “social distancing” recommendations.
According to Courier Journal, U.S. District Judge Justin Walker wrote in a temporary restraining order: “On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter.”
Judge Walker “banned the city from ‘enforcing; attempting to enforce; threatening to enforce; or otherwise requiring compliance with any prohibition on drive-in church services at On Fire,'” the report noted.
Would-be church attendees “face an impossible choice,” the judge wrote, “skip Easter Sunday service, in violation of their sincere religious beliefs, or risk arrest, mandatory quarantine, or some other enforcement action for practicing those sincere religious beliefs.”
“[I]f sitting in cars did pose a significant danger of spreading the virus, Louisville would close all drive-throughs and parking lots that are not related to maintaining public health, which they haven’t done,” Walker said, adding, “Nor is there any evidence that churches are less essential than every other business that is currently allowed to be open – liquor stores among them.”
Announcing the order via Twitter on Thursday, Mayor Fischer posted: “[T]hough it pains me, we cannot have in-person services of any kind for any faith this weekend. That includes drive-thru services of any kind. We cannot gather – even for Passover and Easter – and give COVID-19 more chances to infect our loved and claim more lives.”
& though it pains me, we cannot have in-person services of any kind for any faith this weekend. That includes drive-thru services of any kind. We cannot gather – even for Passover and Easter – and give COVID-19 more chances to infect our loved and claim more lives. #StayHome 3/3
— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) April 8, 2020
Though he disagrees with the judge and has apparently called off law enforcement for drive-in services, Fischer is still “strongly suggesting” folks don’t attend any form a church service at all.
“I regret that the judge did not allow us to present evidence that would have demonstrated there has been no legal enforcement mechanism communicated,” said the mayor. According to the Courier Journal, Fischer has “pointed to photos published in The Courier Journal of a March 29 service at On Fire Christian Church that show some individuals within 6 feet of each other.”
As noted by The Daily Wire on Friday, in-person churchgoers in Kentucky are subject to a 14-day quarantine if they are caught attending mass on Easter Sunday, at the direction of Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear.
Beshear has directed local officials “to record license plate numbers of participants to pass to local health departments,” Kentucky.com reported Friday evening. “Those who attend these gatherings can expect public health officials to show up at their doors with mandates that they self-quarantine for 14 days, the governor said.”
“If you’re going to expose yourself to this virus, it’s not fair to everybody else out there that you might spread it to,” the Democrat said. “Understand, this is the only way we can ensure your decision doesn’t kill somebody else.”