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Religious Liberty Law Firm Asks Court for Restraining Order Against Louisville, KY Mayor in Dispute Over Drive-in Church Services

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April 10, 2020

News Release
For Immediate Release: 4.10.20
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453 

Religious Liberty Law Firm Asks Court for Restraining Order Against Louisville, KY Mayor in Dispute Over Drive-in Church Services

Mayor’s policy singles out religious gathering in a manner inconsistent with CDC Guidelines, state and federal law

Louisville, KY—First Liberty Institute and network attorneys with both WilmerHale and Swansburg & Smith, PLLC, today filed for a temporary restraining order against Louisville, Kentucky Mayor Greg Fischer seeking to block his prohibition on churches holding drive-in services during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The petition was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.  First Liberty, WilmerHale, and Swansburg & Smith, PLLC, represent On Fire Christian Church in Louisville.

You can read First Liberty’s petition here.

“If the government is going to allow drive-in dining rather than forcing you to cook at home, then it can’t ban drive-in church and force you to worship at home,” said Matthew Martens, partner at WilmerHale.

“Protecting basic religious freedoms is essential, in both good times and bad,” said Roger Byron, Senior Counsel at First Liberty.  “We continue to advise religious institutions to follow the CDC’s guidelines and avoid mass gatherings, but the mayor’s prohibition on drive-in church services goes beyond those guidelines and violates state and federal law.”

On Fire Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky has been hosting drive-in church services in its parking lot for several weeks consistent with CDC guidelines and again wants to host a drive-in church service this Sunday for Easter.  In addition to cars being parked six feet apart, all congregants will remain in their cars with windows no more than half open for the entirety of the service.  Multiple security personnel will be present to ensure proper spacing between cars and orderly compliance with all guidelines.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has announced a prohibition on all Easter church service gatherings in the city, to include drive-in services where people remain in their cars.  At the same time, the Mayor permits drive-in restaurant pick-ups to continue unabated.  There are also retail shopping centers permitted to continue their operations with cars gathering in their parking lots and people walking in the parking lots and the aisles of those stores.

In its petition for a temporary restraining order, First Liberty explains that, “Defendants’ targeting of religious adherents from gathering in a manner consistent with governmental social distancing guidelines while permitting similar (and at times even more intimate) social interaction to continue unabated in retail and commercial establishments, flies in the face of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Sections 1 and 5 of the Kentucky Constitution, and the Kentucky Religious Freedom Act.  A temporary restraining order is thus proper to protect Plaintiff’s religious freedom.”

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans. 

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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