A federal appeals court ruled Monday that three individuals who sued the Kentucky governor for their right to assemble for worship during COVID-19 must be paid over $270,000 in attorney’s fees.
Randall Daniel, Theodore 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 alleged Democratic Governor Andrew Beshear’s bans on religious gatherings and interstate travel violated their constitutional rights, which the Sixth Circuit affirmed in May 2020, according to court documents.
On Monday, the Sixth Circuit upheld a district court ruling awarding the congregants $272,142.50 in attorney’s fees, rejecting the governor’s challenges.
“I know a lot of people who are outraged that the TAXPAYER is on the hook for ANDY’S constitutional violation,” said Roberts in a tweet. “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.”
Republican Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie responded to the ruling on Monday, congratulating attorney Chris Wiest and TJ Roberts on the win.
.@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 Sixth Circuit previously barred the governor from enforcing a prohibition on in-person services, disputing the lower court’s ruling which upheld the ban. (RELATED: The GOP Could Flip Two Democratic-Held Governor Seats)
“[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. “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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