Federal Court Rules Dem Governor Who Shut Down Churches During COVID Pandemic Must Pay Up
A federal appeals court ruled Monday that three individuals who sued Kentucky’s Democratic governor for their right to assemble for worship during the COVID-19 pandemic must be paid over $270,000 in attorney’s fees.
Randall Daniel, T.J. Roberts and Sally O’Boyle sued in August 2020 after they received notices logging their attendance at Maryville Baptist Church’s Easter Service and informing them they must quarantine or face “further enforcement measures.”
The group filed a lawsuit alleging Gov. Andrew Beshear’s bans on religious gatherings and interstate travel violated their constitutional rights, which the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in May 2020, according to court documents.
On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit upheld a district court ruling awarding the congregants $272,142.50 in attorney’s fees, rejecting the governor’s challenges.
“Today, three years after these insane lockdowns, the governor owes my attorneys more than 272 Thousand Dollars, more than a quarter million tax dollars, for this case alone,” Roberts, a lawyer who was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a tweet.
“I know a lot of people who are outraged that the TAXPAYER is on the hook for ANDY’S constitutional violation,” he continued.
“I share this outrage, but this outrage must be aimed at Beshear,” Roberts said. “If the people of Kentucky want to quit being taxed to pay for these court judgments, Kentucky MUST elect a governor who will actually follow the constitution.”
Three years ago today, @AndyBeshearKY told the people of Kentucky that they are not allowed to attend church during a Good Friday press conference. Beshear told the people of Kentucky that church goers will have their licenses taken down and they will be forced to quarantine,… pic.twitter.com/uEx5vTVUNT
— TJ Roberts (@realTJRoberts) April 10, 2023
Republican Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie responded to the ruling Monday, congratulating attorneys Chris Wiest and Roberts on the victory.
.@GovAndyBeshear infringed civil rights when he shut down churches.
Then he wasted tax dollars defending his behavior.
Now he’s been ordered to pay a quarter of a million dollars in plaintiffs attorneys’ fees.
Congrats @realTJRoberts and @ChrisWiest11https://t.co/02X55EQxBJ pic.twitter.com/W4hUXaxNAC
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) April 10, 2023
The 6th Circuit previously barred the governor from enforcing a prohibition on in-person religious services, disputing a lower court’s ruling that upheld the ban.
“[The] unexplained breadth of the ban on religious services, together with its haven for numerous secular exceptions, cannot co-exist with a society that places religious freedom in a place of honor in the Bill of Rights: the First Amendment,” the court found in May 2020.
“Here in Kentucky, there are so many different ways to worship, and all but one church in this commonwealth are engaged in them,” Beshear said after the initial lawsuit was filed, according to WDRB-TV in Louisville. “You can do it virtually. You can do it in a drive-in service, and in many states they are not allowing those drive-in services like we are.
“So this work — this opportunity to worship, which is so important, is still there. We just ask people to choose one of the versions that doesn’t spread the coronavirus, and I think that’s what our faith calls us to do.”
Beshear did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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