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

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Beginning Sunday, May 10, all churches in Kentucky can hold in-person services, according to a federal judge’s ruling, WKYT reports.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled that the churches can open as long as they practice social distancing guidelines and maintain hygiene standards set by the CDC.

The ruling was part of a lawsuit filed by Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville, Kentucky, against Governor Andy Beshear.

In the lawsuit, the church’s legal team says that Gov. Beshear’s orders, “unlawfully target religious worship and violate the First Amendment.”

The judge said in-person meetings were “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 the lawsuit and similar ones that the ban on mass gatherings is constitutional because it is applied to all mass gatherings and not specifically to religious gatherings.

“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 Kentucky churches

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