LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maryville Baptist Church in Bullitt County continues to hold in-person services despite Governor Andy Beshear’s executive order banning mass gatherings and Kentucky State Police (KSP) recording license plate numbers and issuing notices to self-quarantine for 14 days at Easter’s service.
A week after the Easter services made national news, there were a few changes this Sunday at the church’s 11 a.m. service.
KSP didn’t show up, and there were fewer cars in the parking lot. Churchgoers also still have the option to watch via livestream or attend the drive-in service. Sunday morning cones noted where cars can park. Maryville’s Pastor Jack Roberts said it’s to maintain proper distance between the vehicles for the drive-in service.
On Friday the church and Pastor Roberts filed a federal lawsuit against Governor Andy Beshear in part on the basis that the governor’s executive order prohibiting mass gatherings, which includes faith-based, violates first amendment rights to speech, assembly, and free exercise.
However, Saturday a federal judge denied the church’s motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO).
U.S. District Court Judge Dale J. Hale stated in part in the order on motion for the TRO that “the order temporarily prohibits “[a]ll mass gatherings,” not merely religious gatherings…religious expression is not singled out.”
The order also stated, “none of the challenged orders limits other avenues of group worship” citing drive-ins and online service as options allowed.
The plaintiffs also compared in-person church service with presence at a liquor store or supercenter store. The order states in part those are “single, transitory experiences,” but included “a more apt comparison is a movie, concert, or sporting event, where individuals come together in a group in the same place at the same time for a common experience. And all such activities are temporarily prohibited.”
Pastor Roberts talked about this latest action in church.
“I said how can you lose, we haven’t lost. I said well if we lost that round just file an appeal,” Pastor Roberts told the congregation.
Pastor Roberts also preached how assembling at church is necessary.
“The difference between sitting in home, sitting in the parking lot, and sitting in the house of God, listen real closely, is the difference of being a spectator and being a participant,” the 76-year-old pastor said.
On Maryville’s doors, signs posted state for people to follow the 6-feet social distancing guideline.
However, Pastor Roberts said he does shake hands with those who want to.
“We’ve got hand sanitizer at almost every pew so if you shake hands with somebody you are welcome to use the hand sanitizer,” Roberts told churchgoers Sunday.
After church Spectrum News 1 asked Pastor Roberts what it would take to close in-person services at Maryville Baptist Church and follow Beshear’s guidelines of live-streaming or drive-in service as a way to worship.
“Probably putting about 50 people in jail. Probably close [the church] till we got back out of jail,” Pastor Roberts said. He added, “If you read the bible you’ll find a lot of God’s people were put in jail for what they believed.”