Attorney General Cameron Asks to Join Lawsuit to Stop Governor Beshear’s Targeting of Faith-Based Gatherings During COVID-19

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 6, 2020) – Attorney General Daniel Cameron today moved to join a lawsuit seeking to end Governor Beshear’s unconstitutional ban on faith-based gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky by Tabernacle Baptist Church of Nicholasville, seeks an injunction against Governor Beshear’s March 19 and March 25 executive orders, which specifically target faith-based gatherings. In his suit, Attorney General Cameron alleges that the Governor’s orders violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Sections 1 and 5 of the Kentucky Constitution, and Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Even in times of crisis, the law must be followed, and it’s my job as Attorney General to defend it when it comes under attack,” said Attorney General Cameron.  “Our Constitution demands neutrality, and Governor Beshear’s executive orders target the practice of religion in every part of the Commonwealth by allowing secular activities while prohibiting faith-based gatherings.  Corporate worship is an important part of many faiths, and we have to balance that right with the need to protect public health during this crisis.  Governor Beshear’s orders fail to strike this important and necessary balance.”

In a press conference last week, Attorney General Cameron called on Governor Beshear to comply with state and federal law protecting the practice of religion and to rescind his executive orders targeting faith-based groups.  The orders remain in effect and continue to allow secular activities and businesses to operate during the pandemic, while banning faith-based gatherings. 

The Governor continued his arbitrary and unlawful targeting of faith-based groups when he announced last week that some businesses, including dog groomers, horse races, manufacturers, and car dealerships, can reopen as early as May 11, nine days before houses of worship can reopen.  The law requires religious services to be treated no differently than secular activity, as long as those participating follow appropriate Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) recommendations.

Other states have restricted mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic but have provided reasonable accommodations and exemptions for the practice of religion.  Governor Beshear’s executive orders provide no such exemptions for faith-based groups. 

Click here to view a copy of the complaint filed today by Attorney General Cameron.  A copy of the complaint filed by Tabernacle Baptist Church can be viewed here.