Maryville Baptist Church filed the opening brief to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the federal lawsuit against Governor Andy Beshear for violating its religious freedom by targeting churchgoers on Easter Sunday.
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 and 25 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.
Liberty Counsel is pursuing a judicial declaration from the court to prevent the governor from returning to his unconstitutional orders.
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 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, “Churches have a constitutional right to meet, and the First Amendment does not disappear during a crisis. Governor Beshear clearly targeted this church and violated these church members’ religious freedom. Liberty Counsel is seeking a court decision that sends a loud message that he can never again discriminate against churches for religious gatherings.”