Kentucky residents are under stay-at-home orders amid the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, but a federal judge is temporarily allowing Kentuckians to attend drive-in church services ahead of Easter Sunday.
District Court Judge Justin Walker said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was violating the Free Exercise Clause by threatening to take down license plate numbers of church attendees and force parishioners to quarantine while stay-at-home orders remain in effect throughout the state. The Trump-appointed judge granted a temporary restraining order to block a ban on drive-in church services, siding with On Fire Christian Center which sought to hold services via drive-thru on Easter Sunday.
"Louisville has targeted religious worship by prohibiting drive-in church services, while not prohibiting a multitude of other non-religious drive-ins and drive-throughs — including, for example, drive-through liquor stores," Judge Walker wrote in his order.
In Texas and Florida, religious services are considered "essential," but in places like Mississippi, people attending drive-in religious services were told by police earlier this week to leave or face criminal prosecution. This was despite the fact that parishioners were remaining inside their vehicles with the windows up. Police are also shutting down church gatherings in California while marijuana businesses continue to conduct business as usual.
As the government takes unprecedented measures to stop the spread of the virus, the balance between protecting civil liberties and mitigating the spread of the virus will likely be decided by the courts in the months and years to come.