Pastors, rabbis, priests, imams, other religious leaders and churches across the United States found creative ways to continue their services in light of the global pandemic.
But not every congregation was willing to forgo large in person gatherings that violated stay-at-home orders.
In Louisiana, Evangelical Christian Pastor Tony Spell continues to create headlines for his defiance of social distancing guidelines, but he's not alone. In California, three Evangelical Christian churches are trying to sue Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom over their right to violate pandemic containment protocols.
Then last week, three parishioners of an Evangelical Christian church, Maryville Baptist of Louisville, filed suit against Democratic Governor Andy Beshear. They sought to gain a restraining order against the state's enforcement of their stay-at-home order.
You can see Pastor Jack Roberts of Maryville Baptist Church comment on the issue here.
Plaintiffs Theodore Roberts, Randall Daniel and Sally O'Boyle claimed their rights of religious freedom were being violated by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The lawsuit stated that "in times of public panic and fear, egregious violations of fundamental rights have been permitted throughout the history of this Country" and that "it is only well after the fact that we have recognized the error of doing so."
Then to drive their point home, the parishioners claimed being asked to worship without gathering in person—thereby violating social distancing guidelines and endangering the public—was the same as Japanese Americans losing their homes, businesses and personal possessions and being interred for years during World War II.
Churchgoers Sue Kentucky Gov. Comparing Restrictions to Japanese Internment Three churchgoers who sued Kentucky Gov… https://t.co/ebUv2aJ7H8— ❌ Rocky ❌ (@❌ Rocky ❌)1587023193.0
You can see the lawsuit excerpt here:
US District Court Case Case: 2:20-cv-00054-WOB-CJ
The lawsuit claimed any attempts to enforce the stay-at-home order that applies equally to all citizens violated the parishioners' rights on a scale equivalent to a racist, unjust ruling from 1944 that targeted only a single ethnic group.
People had little tolerance for the church's false equivalency.
@caitteach Japanese Internment - oh, wait. That’s already been used. #covidiots— Susan K.S. Grigsby (@Susan K.S. Grigsby)1587567000.0
Branch Covidians Sue Kentucky Over Lockdown: We Are Being Interned Like WWII Japanese-Americans Were -… https://t.co/uj90N0Be3L— JoeMyGod (@JoeMyGod)1586992239.0
Between this and the people suing Kentucky? because the stay-at-home order is like the Japanese internment camps...… https://t.co/4hF1WOGqL7— RxaVMarD (@RxaVMarD)1587241833.0
God I hate these people so much. It’s like having a 4 year old and your job is to keep it from killing itself. https://t.co/mq7Qv8xCWp— Jefferson (@Jefferson)1586994843.0
Apparently US District Court Judge David Hale was also not swayed by the churchgoers use of the Japanese internment to justify why they should be exempt from stay at home orders.
On Saturday, Judge Hale ruled that because Kentucky's pandemic containment measures ban all mass gatherings—"i.e., any event or convening that brings together groups of individuals, including civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events as well as concerts, festivals and conventions"—there was no religious discrimination and therefore no basis for their lawsuit.
The parishioners lawsuit and request for a restraining order were both ruled meritless. The church met again on Sunday and have not yet said whether they plan to appeal the decision.
Governor Beshear said Saturday to the Lexington Herald Leader he was unconcerned by the lawsuit.
"God gives us wisdom, and virtually all of our faith leaders are leading with that wisdom."
The book Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World is available here.