A tenacious church in Kentucky has won a three-year lockdown lawsuit, backing claims State-enforced church closures during 2020 were an abuse of fundamental rights.
Three circuit judges from the Sixth Court of Appeals, ruled in favour of Theodore Roberts, Randall Daniel, and Sally O’boyle, ‘affirming’ a district court’s indirect recognition that Governor Andrew Beshear’s COVID-19 fiats were a blatant violation of their rights.
At the district court level, Bashear’s government was ordered to pay legal fees associated with Roberts, Daniels, and O’boyle’s defence.
The three attended an in-person Easter service on April 12, 2020.
Roberts, Daniel, and O’boyle were reprimanded, then told they would face criminal charges for any further ‘violations of [Bashear’s] prohibition on mass gatherings.’
According to a recount in the new seven-page ruling, undeterred, the congregants challenged Bashear’s threats.
They sued the Democrat Governor, the county attorney, and Health secretary, to stop further prosecution, arguing that “restrictions on religious gatherings, and interstate travel violated the U.S. Constitution.”
The district court agreed, and put in place preliminary injunctions protecting Roberts, Daniel and O’boyle.
In the lengthy lawsuit’s conclusion, the Sixth Court judges applauded the injunctions against government overreach.
They also inferred the district court didn’t go far enough, stating, “While the district court refused to halt enforcement of the restrictions on religious gatherings [in 2020], the 6th court disagreed.
“It enjoined the Governor and the other defendants from prohibiting services at Maryville Baptist Church.”
Governor Beshear was ordered to cover the USD $272,142.50 in legal fees, accrued by the Maryville Baptist trio’s court challenge to COVID-19 overreach.
Not satisfied, the Democrat Governor challenged the ruling, arguing his administration shouldn’t have to pay [his victims’] legal costs.
Their argument, Beshear pleaded, was ‘moot’ because his administration had changed course after the injunctions, and ‘the Kentucky legislature had [by then] limited the Governor’s authority to issue similar COVID-19 orders.’
Page 7’s scathing review of the Governor’s actions, sees the three sixth circuit judges declare his defence to be problematic:
“He ignores evidence that he “actively enforced” the orders. He does not grapple with the possibility that he had some authority over prosecutions.”
The judges continued, “The Governor cites nothing for the idea that a plaintiff may prevail against a rule’s enforcer, but not its promulgator. That would be an odd line to draw, as we tend to make officials responsible for their own policies.”
Ergo, they declared, “claims against an official in his official capacity amount to claims against the State, including fee awards.”
Desperate to redeem the optics, Bashear tried to claim, the defendant’s lawyers ‘overcharged,’ ‘billed for excessive hours, and used exorbitant rates.’
Further embarrassing the Governor – who has in the past justified his executive orders as acting in the interests of “the greater good” – the Sixth Court disagreed.
The judges defended the district court, reminding Beshear of the court’s ‘expertise, and superior understanding of litigation,’ in deciding how much, and to whom.
Answering Bashear’s accusations of fraud, the three Sixth Court judges ruled, “This case offers no red flags of abuse.”
Acknowledging the ‘possibility of mootness,’ and questions over ‘prevailing party status’ (who gets to pay legal costs), they then affirmed the original fee amount.
During government totalitarian responses to COVID-19, the large Maryville Baptist community in Bullitt County, Kentucky refused to close its doors.
Representing the church, Christ Wiest, called the win a ‘thumping.’
Liberty Counsel, who also took the civil case on board, responded in 2021 to the 2020 victory, saying, “Governor Andy Beshear has finally been permanently quarantined by the courts from returning to his unconstitutional restrictions on churches. The governor must now pay for his abusive and discriminatory actions toward Maryville Baptist Church.”
Pre-empting the federal court outcome in February 2023, Liberty Counsel founder, Mat Staver added, “Governor Andy Beshear may not violate the First Amendment without any consequences. The courts blocked the governor’s unconstitutional restrictions on churches and places of worship.”
As such, he alluded, Maryville Baptist Church deserves compensation.