Kentucky Governor Threatens to Disperse Church Services (1)

(Updates with name of minister in the sixth paragraph. An earlier version corrected Beshear’s religious denomination.)

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a church deacon, is threatening to disband Easter services at 17 churches where congregations plan to ignore social distancing orders.

“We’ll be taking additional steps, and those that want to openly claim that they’ll be doing those things and put people in harm’s way can be expecting to see us,” Beshear (D) said Wednesday during a news conference.

Beshear, a deacon in a congregation within the Disciples of Christ, said all 120 Kentucky county executives have agreed to break up gatherings of 10 or more people to thwart the spread of coronavirus.

The state has received reports that more than a dozen churches are ignoring shelter-in-place orders prohibiting mass gatherings for any reason, including religious ceremonies, he said.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
A woman follows along in her bible during the sermon at a drive-in service on April 5 in Louisville, Ky. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic limiting gatherings of people, churches have responded with alternate ways to have their services.

Other governors have taken different approaches.

In Mississippi, Rev. Stanley Searcy Sr., pastor of New Hope the Vision Center Missionary Baptist Church in Natchez, said he agreed to stop holding services because Gov. Tate Reeves (R) called and asked.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said he wouldn’t send state police to break up church services, but “I don’t know of any religion that says it’s not OK to worry about your neighbor, to not worry about other people.”

Beshear, who said he canceled his son’s baptism planned for Sunday because of the pandemic, said the state would allow drive-in church services where people remain in their cars.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com; Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com

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