Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, issued a legal directive on Thursday prohibiting churches from gathering for Easter services, even if congregants remained in their cars for a "drive-in" service.
"We're saying no church worshiping," the mayor declared.
On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Justin Walker thoroughly rebuked the mayor for his mandate.
In an emergency ruling, Walker granted a local Louisville church, On Fire Christian Center, a temporary restraining order against Fischer's directive, allowing the church, and presumably others in Louisville, to move forward with modified Easter gatherings.
The church sued Louisville on Friday, claiming Fischer's order violated their constitutional rights, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.
"On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter. That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion," Walker wrote. "But two days ago, citing the need for social distancing during the current pandemic, Louisville's Mayor Greg Fischer ordered Christians not to attend Sunday services, even if they remained in their cars to worship — and even though it's Easter."
"The Mayor's decision is stunning. And it is, 'beyond all reason,' unconstitutional," Walker ruled.
Walker's ruling only granted a temporary restraining order; he did not issue a final ruling. He will hear oral arguments beginning April 14.