Like you, I’m holed up at home with my family preparing to celebrate the hope and resurrection of Easter on Sunday morning outside of a church building.  I hate that we’re not able to gather together, but avoiding large gatherings of people is “common sense compliance” I’ve been touting in my podcasts and Facebook Lives.

I’ve also been talking about having an attitude of defiance toward government overreach.  That’s why I was gratified to see people in Kentucky pushing back against an overzealous mayor who was preparing to unconstitutionally target people on faith tomorrow morning.

Denny Burk has the story:

“Late in the week, Governor Andy Beshear and Mayor Greg Fischer doubled-down on their ban on church gatherings. Gov. Beshear mainly focused on churches that are gathering together in person. Mayor Fischer took it a step further and forbade drive-thru services where congregants don’t even get out of their cars. Mayor Fischer says that police will record license plate numbers of anyone caught in a drive-thru service and would possibly subject them to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“If this sounds outrageous to you, that’s because it is.”

It definitely is outrageous…  and it violates the First Amendment.  Mayor Fischer is calling for harassment of Christians if their cars happen to be seen in a church parking lot, even if they never get out of their cars.  They’re not endangering anyone nor are they violating any statutes.  You can’t allow all kinds of drive-through services – from fast food to beer — and ban drive-up church where no one gets out of their car.

The church fought back.  Here’s more great reporting and commentary from Burk:

The Courier-Journal reports:

A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order sought by Louisville’s On Fire Christian Church, allowing the congregation to hold a drive-in style service on Easter.

The church sued Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the city of Louisville on Friday, arguing the mayor’s directive for churches to forgo gatherings to help slow the spread of COVID-19 violated Constitutional rights.

I have obtained a copy of the Judge’s order, and it forbids “from enforcing; attempting to enforce; threatening to enforce; or otherwise requiring compliance with any prohibition on drive-in church services at On Fire.” The Judge also offers a lengthy opinion explaining the rationale for his order, and it is quite the read. He writes:

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

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. “The principle that government, in pursuit of legitimate interests, cannot in a selective manner impose burdens only on conduct motivated by religious belief is essential to the protection of the rights guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause.” …

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.” That scrutiny requires Louisville to prove its interest is “compelling” and its regulation is “narrowly tailored to advance that interest.”

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” because they are not even close to being “narrowly tailored to advance that interest.”…

In other words, Louisville’s actions are “underinclusive” and “overbroad.” They’re underinclusive because they don’t prohibit a host of equally dangerous (or equally harmless) activities that Louisville has permitted on the basis that they are “essential.” Those “essential” activities include driving through a liquor store’s pick-up window, parking in a liquor store’s parking lot, or walking into a liquor store where other customers are shopping. The Court does not mean to impugn the perfectly legal business of selling alcohol, nor the legal and widely enjoyed activity of drinking it. But if beer is “essential,” so is Easter.

I agree with Burk on this.   Burk, by the way, is a pastor who canceled his own church services due to the outbreak.  

We have to be vigilant in our efforts to contain the virus, but we cannot allow the government to unlawfully target Christians, or anyone else for that matter. 

This mayor might be well-meaning, but he is wrong on the law.

We can’t let the Wuhan Flu kill our liberty.

Image Credit: SkitterPhoto

Hat Tip: Denny Burk

About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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