Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has been ordered to pay attorney’s fees for plaintiffs who sued for violating their right to assemble for worship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beshear, like other governors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, enacted strict lockdown measures to combat the novel coronavirus. Among measures implemented included limits on worshippers to gather for service which critics suggested directly violated their First Amendment rights.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” reads the First Amendment.
The lawsuit began in August 2020 after Randall Daniel, Theodore Roberts, and Sally O’Boyle sued Governor Beshear after receiving notices tracking attendance at Maryville Baptist Chuch’s Easter Service. The notice reportedly informed the plaintiffs that they would face “further enforcement measures” if they refused to follow quarantine mandates.
Plaintiffs alleged Beshear’s mandates banning religious gathering along with interstate travel violated their constitutional rights. The lawsuit’s claim was subsequently affirmed by a Sixth Circuit Judge in May 2020.
“The Governor and the other defendants are enjoined, during the pendency of this appeal, from enforcing orders prohibiting in-person services at the Maryville Baptist Church if the Church, its ministers, and its congregants adhere to the public health requirements mandated for ‘life-sustaining’ entities,” reads the court order.
Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit rejected Beshear’s challenges and upheld a district court’s ruling that awarded the plaintiffs $272,142.50 in attorney’s fees.
“Three years ago today, [Andy Beshear] told the people of Kentucky that they are not allowed to attend church during a Good Friday press conference,” said attorney and plaintiff in the lawsuit TJ Roberts in a tweet. “Beshear told the people of Kentucky that church goers will have their licenses taken down and they will be forced to quarantine, and face jail time.”
“I ignored that order along with dozens of brave Christians and worshipped the Lord.”
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
“Beshear followed through on these threats, so I called [lawyer Chris Weist] and we sued the governor in federal court,” Roberts continued. “Thanks to Chris, Tom Bruns, and Robert A Winter Jr, we won and the right to worship was affirmed in the 6th Circuit.”
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. I know a lot of people who are outraged that the TAXPAYER is on the hook for ANDY’S constitutional violation. I share this outrage, but this outrage must be aimed at Beshear. 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. Thank you to Chris, Tom, and Bob for their passionate defense of my constitutional rights and the rights of every Kentuckian!!
Kentucky representative Thomas Massie noted the attorney’s fees would be funded through taxes.
“Governor Andy Beshear infringed civil rights when he shut down churches,” wrote Massie. “Then he wasted tax dollars defending his behavior.”
“Now he’s been ordered to pay a quarter of a million dollars in plaintiffs attorney’s fees.”
.@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
“Kentucky Governor Beshear nailed for plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees over his unconstitutional ban of church services due to COVID. Too bad it comes out of the taxpayers pockets and not his,” Massie continued in another post.