KY Gov. Beshear’s Church Restrictions Face Another Blow

Apr 28, 2021

Liberty Counsel filed a Notice of Supplemental Authority to the district court in Kentucky regarding Maryville Baptist Church in its lawsuit against Gov. Andy Beshear’s worship restrictions. 

This document filed in the court updates the case with two recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Tandon v. Newsom, and South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom. The U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition for cert in South Bay Pentecostal v. Newsom and sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in light of the High Court’s ruling in Tandon v. Newsom, in which the High Court ruled that California Governor Gavin Newsom’s restrictions on home Bible study and worship violate the First Amendment. In fact, the Supreme Court has now summarily reversed a lower court for the sixth time for its failure to follow its clear teachings. 

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that its two prior 3-0 decisions granting injunctions pending appeal for Maryville Baptist Church remain binding precedent.  

As the case continues in the lower court, the Court of Appeals stated Gov. Beshear needs to decide whether he still intends to defend his prior orders that have been enjoined. Despite the lower court’s injunction protecting the church and two 3-0 injunctions pending appeal at the Sixth Circuit, Gov. Beshear continues to defend his past orders and has argued these court decisions are wrong. In this respect, the Court of Appeals also stated that if Gov. Beshear continues his defense and attempts to reimpose restrictions on churches, the doors of that appeals court are open for the case to return to the same panel of judges.

Liberty Counsel won an injunction pending appeal from the Court of Appeals and from the federal District Court granting the request for parking lot and in-person church services on behalf of the church and its pastor Dr. Jack Roberts. The March 19, 2020 and March 25, 2020 orders issued by Gov. Beshear previously prohibited ALL religious services, while allowing many secular services. The executive orders clearly targeted religious services for discriminatory treatment. Under the orders, the church could hold meetings to feed, shelter, and provide social services to an unlimited number of people, but religious services were banned in the same building where non-religious services could be held. 

Last year on Easter Sunday, Kentucky State Police troopers came to Maryville Baptist Church, wrote down license plate numbers, and placed notices on every car in the church parking lot. The church had set up speakers outside for parking lot service. The state troopers did not go inside the church where a small number of people were spread far apart in a 700-seat sanctuary. Following Gov. Beshear’s threat to target anyone who attended a church service, they placed quarantine notices on each car, including those where people stayed in their cars for the drive-in parking lot service. Anyone whose car was in the parking lot on Easter Sunday received a letter from Gov. Beshear requiring them to sign a document agreeing to take their temperatures every day at the same time and report each day to the Board of County Health Department; to not attend work, school, or shopping centers, church, or any public place; to not travel outside the county; to not travel outside of Kentucky without prior approval; and to not travel by public, commercial, or emergency conveyance such as a bus, taxi, airplane, train, or boat without prior approval. 

Yet on that same Sunday, the parking lots of Kroger, Walmart, liquors stores and other commercial operations within minutes of the church were packed with cars. These businesses were jammed with people. Not one person received a quarantine notice. Gov. Beshear targeted churchgoers parked in a church parking lot to intimidate and isolate them. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Gov. Andy Beshear must be permanently quarantined from returning to his unconstitutional restrictions on churches. He has been blocked by the courts, and we intend to make sure he never imposes these illegal restrictions on churches again.” 

Liberty Counsel advances religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, and the family through litigation and education. We depend on your support, which enables us to represent people at no cost. Click here to GIVE NOW.