Like a ‘dystopian novel’: Judge slams, overrides mayor’s ban on Easter worship services
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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, April 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – In a scathing opinion on Saturday, Judge Justin Walker of the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky granted a temporary restraining order allowing On Fire Christian Church to hold a “drive-in” Easter worship service in a parking lot.
“On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” Walker wrote. “That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion.”
However, “two days ago, citing the need for social distancing during the current pandemic, Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer ordered Christians not to attend Sunday services, even if they remained in their cars to worship – and even though it’s Easter,” Walker added.
“Unless the Court enters this Temporary Restraining Order, the members of On Fire will suffer irreparable harm. The government plans to substantially burden their religious practice on one of the most important holidays of the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday,” argued the judge.
“If beer is ‘essential,’ so is Easter.”
Fischer had said, “Our job is to deny the virus. If we don’t do that, more lives will be lost. I know it’s tough … I just can’t allow [drive-thru church services] to happen.”
“I am reluctant to do that, but I am at the same I am emphatic at doing that because I want to save the lives of people in our community,” he explained at a press conference. He claimed he could not allow “hundreds of thousands” of people to drive to Mass, or any worship service, during the Easter weekend.
Fischer also argued that “it’s not really practical or safe to accommodate drive-up services taking place in our community.” He did not explain how COVID-19 may be transmitted from one person to another, when people are sitting in their own separate cars.
Judge Walker pointed out, “The threats against On Fire by the Mayor and Louisville Metro violate the First Amendment and Kentucky law.”
By prohibiting drive-in worship services, Walker stressed, “Louisville has targeted religious worship … while not prohibiting a multitude of other non-religious drive-ins and drive-throughs – including, for example, drive-through liquor stores. Moreover, Louisville has not prohibited parking in parking lots more broadly – including, again, the parking lots of liquor stores.”
“There is no instruction book for a pandemic,” Walker said in conclusion. “The threat evolves. Experts reevaluate. And government officials make the best calls they can, based on the best information they have.”
He explained that he did not accuse Mayor Fischer of “acting with malice toward the physical or spiritual health of On Fire’s congregation.” Instead, he suggested Fischer was driven by a “concern for the public’s health,” even though others disagreed with him.
According to Walker, the passion of Christ – “the betrayals, the torture, the state-sponsored murder of God’s only Son, and the empty tomb on the third day – makes no sense at all. And even to the believer, or at least to some of them, it can be incomprehensible as well.”
Nevertheless, the reason the congregation of On Fire Christian Church “will be there for each other and their Lord is the reason they believe He was and is there for us. For them, for all believers, ‘it isn’t a matter of reason; finally, it’s a matter of love.’”
Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said on Friday that his government was going to record the license plates of all people participating in Easter worship services or other gatherings, followed by quarantine notices issued to all who attended.
“This is a time and weekend, a whole week for multiple faiths, that is about faith. It’s about knowing we have faced as people – as Christians, as Jews, as members of many faiths – many difficult, dark times, and we have prevailed,” Beshear said, according to The Hill.
“We know that the weeks or the months ahead will be difficult. We know that there are going to be tougher days before there are easier days,” he continued. “This is the only way we can ensure that your decision doesn’t kill someone else.”
Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who recently recovered from the coronavirus, heavily criticized the Governor on Twitter. “Taking license plates at church? Quarantining someone for being Christian on Easter Sunday? Someone needs to take a step back here.”
Taking license plates at church? Quarantining someone for being Christian on Easter Sunday? Someone needs to take a step back here.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) April 11, 2020
Kentucky Governor Announces Plan to Record License Plates of Easter Church Goers and Force Them to Quarantine for 14 Days https://t.co/z7U42liQRh
Paul, who worked as an eye doctor before his career in politics, started volunteering at a local hospital after his own recovery, “to assist those in my community who are in need of medical help, including coronavirus patients.”