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Federal Court Prohibits Louisville Mayor from Banning Easter Sunday Drive-in Church Service

Federal Court Prohibits Louisville Mayor from Banning Easter Sunday Drive-in Church Service

Judge Justin Walker, who has been nominated by Donald Trump to the D.C. Circuit and is close to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, found that the city unconstutionally prohibited drive-in religious services while not imposing such restrictions on parking at restaurants and liquor stores.

The Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, has threatened to fine anyone who attends a drive-in Easter Sunday church service, even though attendees would remain in their cars in the parking lot.

The On Fire Christian Center sought an emergency Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)(pdf.) which was granted today by federal Judge Justin Walker in the Western District of Kentucky. Walker, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and protege of Mitch McConnell, recently was nominated to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and his nomination is expected to incide a scorched-earth opposition.

The TRO, granted ex parte without giving the City of Louisville a chance to be heard, provides in part:

1. The Court GRANTS the motion for a temporary restraining order filed by On Fire Christian Center, Inc. (“On Fire”) against Mayor Greg Fischer and the City of Louisville (together, “Louisville”).
2. The Court ENTERS this Temporary Restraining Order on Saturday, April 11, 2020 at 2:00 P.M.1
3. The Court ENJOINS Louisville from enforcing; attempting to enforce; threatening to enforce; or otherwise requiring compliance with any prohibition on drive-in church services at On Fire.2
4. Unless the Court enters this Temporary Restraining Order, the members of On Fire will suffer irreparable harm.3 The government plans to substantially burden their religious practice on one of the most important holidays of the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday.4
5. Notice to Louisville before entering this Temporary Restraining Order isn’t necessary.5 The facts in On Fire’s affidavit “clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to [On Fire] before [Louisville] may be heard in opposition.”6 J. Brooken Smith, On Fire’s lawyer, certified that he sent Louisville a letter yesterday detailing their potential claims but didn’t hear anything back.7
6. The Court issued this Temporary Restraining Order without notice because Easter Sunday is less than one day away.8 Providing notice to Louisville before entering this Temporary Restraining Order would be impractical in such a short period of time.

The opinion does not question the governments ability to impose restrictions on the public to fight a pandemic. The central reasoning of the opinion is that because Louisville does not impose similar restrictions on parking at drive-through restaurants or liquor stores, singling out a religious establishment for more harsh treatment is unconstitutional.

Some excerpts:

“As we are all painfully aware, our nation faces a public health emergency caused by the exponential spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.”35 Four days ago, defendant Mayor of Louisville Greg Fischer said it was “with a heavy heart” that he was banning religious services, even if congregants remain in their cars during the service.36 He asserted, “It’s not really practical or safe to accommodate drive-up services taking place in our community.”37 Drive-through restaurants and liquor stores are still open.38

* * *

On Sunday, tomorrow, Plaintiff On Fire Christian Center wishes to hold an Easter service, as Christians have done for two thousand years. On Fire has planned a drive-in church service in accordance with the Center for Disease Control’s social distancing guidelines.49

* * *

In this case, Louisville is violating the Free Exercise Clause “beyond all question.”53

To begin, Louisville is substantially burdening On Fire’s sincerely held religious beliefs in a manner that is not “neutral” between religious and non-religious conduct, with orders and threats that are not “generally applicable” to both religious and non-religious conduct.54 ….

Here, 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. Moreover, Louisville has not prohibited parking in parking lots more broadly – including, again, the parking lots of liquor stores. When Louisville prohibits religious activity while permitting non-religious activities, its choice “must undergo the most rigorous of scrutiny.”57 That scrutiny requires Louisville to prove its interest is “compelling” and its regulation is “narrowly tailored to advance that interest.”58

Louisville will be (highly) unlikely to make the second of those two showings. To be sure, Louisville is pursuing a compelling interest of the highest order through its efforts to contain the current pandemic. But its actions violate the Free Exercise Clause “beyond all question”59 because they are not even close to being “narrowly tailored to advance that interest.”60

[Featured Image: Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Sen. Mitch McConnell at swearing-in ceremony for Judge Justin Walker]


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Pretty good ruling … and a nice history lesson for the Doofus mayor, assuming of course that he would read it.

Mark my words, LI readers. The genie is out of the bottle, and it will be extremely difficult to stuff him(her) back in.


    Tiki in reply to tiger66. | April 11, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    I’d argue that the number of peopled cars arriving at the start of the work day in lots designated for the exclusive use of official Louisville City vehicles and employee cars far exceed those for church service.

Another win thanks to President Trump having appointed a constitutionally minded judge.

While there might have been some judge who would have put this right, given how the leftist judges are, and had Hillary won the court would have been stacked the opposite way, I doubt it would have been judged this way. After all, it’s for the “common good”, under some undefined clause never written in the constitution.

Given the relentless attacks against anything remotely Christian, this is welcome news.

As with the “lawfare” suits against bakeries (ongoing in Colorado), pro-life groups, etc., attempts to limit the First Amendment’s religious rights notably exclude any restrictions on the jihadists, wiccans, et al. The court is only pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of the lefty, Anti-Americans.

More Constitutional originalists, please, Mr. President.

Yes… an amazing power-grab, and death of the Constitution is unfolding before our very eyes.
Few question it.
You’d want to think we were all adult enough to conduct ourselves with prudence, rather than have the Government step in and curtail all our rights.
Are the one-world orders nuts really crazy?

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to snowshooze. | April 12, 2020 at 9:40 am

    Oddly enough, there are places where our own judgement and prudence are the rule, not the exception. I reside in Tennessee. Yes, the Governor did a lock-down of sorts. But, there are no police in the streets writing tickets for church-goers. No drones. No barking of orders from PA systems.

    Someone tried to block big-box DIY sales in the model of what is going on in Michigan. Our governor, however, is not an emotional, overwrought “dredle-kup” who rules by emotion and feelings. He put a stop to it.

    Observe that with rare exceptions, this draconian nonsense is only being pressed in placed run by Democrats.

    What I find so sad is police, and shariffs, are so willing to obey orders. But, as a former concentrartion camp prisioner explained it to me, “They smile and greet you. They eat in your restaurants; they come to your shop to get their radio sets mended. That is this week. Then, the orders come down, and that smiling policeman from last week is screaming “raus. RAUS!” as they push you into the trucks.”

I was ready to take the mayor’s side and cite restrictions on church services imposed during the Spanish Flu outbreak. But a ban on people who stay in their cars? Nope.

Regrettable to find out what these elected personalities are really like when given an opportunity to inflict granted “authority” against the governed.

Now that the villains have been exposed, may the disenfranchised public make such adjustments as may be necessary to assure such persons never hold responsible office, again.

Prior to the Wuhan virus I didn’t see the cops banning those snake handling churches that have an entirely more dangerous exposure. Defined by Obama as a Bible-thumping bitter clinger I am not nuts enough to force G_d to save me from stupidity.

I know these are difficult times. In Alaska, a state med director stated that people in their own cars must be 6 ft apart for any Easter services. I think she confused viral transmission with automatic transmissions.

Not hillary
All the rest is gravy

All these tyranny-minded leftists, from mayors, police chiefs, right on up to a state’s executive offices, must be challenged. Especially for these tickets handed out to churches and their members, every one should fought. My view is that none of these will stick.

In the 1787 debates two underlying and overlapping tensions existed. The first, between those states which were the then great or large states (principally MA, PA, VA) and the “lesser states” (such as DE, GA, SC). The other, between non-slave states and slave states. Many of the slave states were also lesser states. The strain between the respective delegates was just below the surface which occasionally bubbled to the surface.

The delegates from the large states, who insisted that the lesser states had no reason or cause for concern that the interests of other states would ever be placed by the large states in jeopardy, received this reply from Delaware delegate Gunning Bedford. “They [the large states] insist . . they never will hurt or injure the lesser states. I do not, gentlemen, trust you.”

from Bowen, Miracle at Philadelphia, at 131 (1966).

That sort of suspicious attitude is lacking in today’s body politic. We give entirely too much trust to politicians. At our peril.

    Morning Sunshine in reply to fscarn. | April 11, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    17th amendment.

      Politically speaking, 1913 was the worst year in the nation’s history,

      Four disastrous events,

      February 3, 1913 – the 16th Am (income tax) became part of the Constitution

      March 3, 1913 – Democrat Wilson became president; Wilson the internationalist made the hard break from Americanism (government’s sole role being to protect natural rights), and set America on the pattern of endless world wars with America as the world’s policeman

      April 8, 1913 – the 17th Am (direct election of federal senators) became part of the Constitution

      December 23, 1913 – the bill creating the Federal Reserve became law; signed by Wilson the internationalist

Good to see commie bullshit corrected.
More please.

I drive for Uber in Michigan. The younger community thinks this is all a joke. Gov Whitmer and the AG are for sure. I expect to start seeing more and more “civil disobedience”

    Sanddog in reply to stl. | April 12, 2020 at 3:40 am

    If this goes on much longer, people are going to just stop following orders. At that point, things are going to get really interesting.