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Some houses of worship reopen to in-person services immediately, others hold off

Posted at 1:40 PM, May 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-10 22:12:23-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) -  — Kentucky houses of worship are reopening their doors after a series of court rulings determined they could begin hosting in-person services immediately.

Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville, Ky. filed a temporary restraining order to block the enforcement of Gov. Andy Beshear’s order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.

On Friday, two federal judges ruled churches could proceed with religious services. The following day, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined the governor ran afoul of the constitution by allowing a number of exceptions for "life-sustaining" activities that follow social distancing guidelines, while not allowing similar exceptions for religious activities protected by the First Amendment.

As a result, Tabernacle Baptist Church welcomed its congregation to attend services inside the sanctuary.

“Tabernacle Baptist has been following the C.D.C. guidelines from the beginning of the governor's orders and they will continue to follow the C.D.C. guidelines throughout the duration of this virus,” said Roger Byron, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, the firm representing Tabernacle Baptist in the lawsuit.

The church is enforcing six feet distance between households and encouraging the use of masks and hand sanitizer, according to Byron.

Meanwhile, other church leaders around the state told LEX 18 they don’t feel comfortable relaunching in-person services yet.

Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington has not set a date to reopen yet. Pastor Ray Green said they’re taking things day-by-day as the situation continues to develop.

“We work on pivoting, but I don't think that we can pivot that quickly. And we want to make sure that we are ready and that we can do a great job of allowing people to gather and worship, physically,” said Green.

Consolidated Baptist Church in Lexington is also taking a slow approach. Reverend Richard Gaines told LEX 18 he’s concerned with the national data that shows African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Gaines said since his congregation is primarily made up of people from that demographic, it’s a concern that’s high on his list.

“We have to take all those things into account to make sure that all segments of the population are safe as can be,” said Gaines.