Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, announced that anyone in the state attending an Easter service would be forced into a mandatory quarantine.
The announcement was made on Good Friday, one of the holy days leading up to Easter.
In his announcement, Beshear revealed that police will be at the church parking lots.
Instead of issuing tickets or arresting those who attend, the police would be recording the license plates of church members.
The local health authorities would then be permitted to contact those people with instructions telling them that they must quarantine for 14 days.
More details on Beshear’s announcement below:
Governor Beshear's announcement comes on the heels of several controversies across the country of local governments attempting to ban drive-in services.
Drive-in services are where church members meet in the parking lot of their church, but stay within their own vehicles to observe social distancing measures.
NBC News has more details on the Democrat governor's forced quarantine:
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear implored residents to avoid gathering this weekend for the Easter holiday, warning that anyone who violates the state's stay-at-home order will be subject to a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine.
Beshear said the state will record license plate information of people seen attending mass gatherings and turn that information over to local public health officials. Quarantine notices will then be delivered in person.
The announcement was made on Good Friday, one of the holidays leading into Easter Sunday.
"I hope everybody knows that even on a weekend like this we cannot have in-person gatherings of any type," Beshear said, adding that at least seven churches in the state are still considering whether to hold Easter services.
"We absolutely cannot bring people together in one building like that because that is how the coronavirus spreads, and that's how people die," Beshear said.
All mosques and synagogues throughout Kentucky previously closed and none intend to hold services this weekend, according to the governor.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican who is recovering from coronavirus, criticized Beshear's order in a tweet.
"Taking license plates at church? Quarantining someone for being Christian on Easter Sunday? Someone needs to take a step back here," Paul tweeted.
But Beshear, a Democrat, said "it's not fair" for some people to violate the state's stay-at-home order and risk spreading COVID-19 to others who are following the directive.
"This is just an example of personal responsibility," Beshear said.
Republicans from across the country have decried Beshear's forced quarantine as "authoritarian."
Many are alarmed that local police will be keeping tabs on license plates.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental right protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, so backlash against Beshear's order is beginning to grow.
Easter Sunday is arguably the most important holiday for Christians, as it marks Christ's resurrection from the tomb.
While many churches have gone online, others have been creative with how they gather, including drive-in services.
Beshear claimed his order would not include those attending drive-in services.
However, many Republicans argue that Governor Beshear's order amounts to permission for law enforcement to "stalk" those exercising their First Amendment rights.
The Lexington Herald Leader has more on the Republican pushback:
On Saturday, Beshear said the vast majority of churches in Kentucky are doing the right thing and choosing not to gather. “I’m just doing my best to save lives, and there aren’t easy answers.”
He said nearly 50 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths were traced to a revival in Hopkins County.
While he encouraged Kentuckians to celebrate Easter at home, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a tweet that he was “deeply concerned that our law enforcement officers are being asked to single out religious services.”
“Directing a uniformed presence at church services to record the identity of worshippers and to force a quarantine, while doing no such thing for the people gathered at retail stores or obtaining an abortion, is the definition of arbitrary,” he said.
The Republican Party of Kentucky also issued a statement Saturday calling on the administration to rethink the plan.
“Governor Beshear’s order for state police to stalk churchgoers and turn their information over to government agents is a blatant overreach,” GOP spokesman Mike Lonergan said in the statement. “We all want to keep working together to fight the coronavirus, but this is the wrong approach. The Governor and his administration should retract this overbearing use of government power and come up with another way to work with churches to discourage in-person gatherings and help faith communities follow the proper CDC guidelines - without such draconian measures.”
U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie also weighed in on Beshear’s action, saying in a Facebook post, “The same week Jews celebrate freedom from bondage and Christians celebrate freedom from death, Governor Beshear is going to be in your church parking lot scanning your license plate.”
Beshear said Friday that he knew of about seven churches that were considering holding in-person services this weekend, but he expected that that number would shrink to about three or four by Saturday.
He said he is personally affected by the ban on in-person worship services. His son had hoped to be baptized on Sunday, but it had to be put on hold because of the coronavirus.
Beshear said attending an in-person worship service is not a test of faith.
A Louisville church has already moved forward with a lawsuit against Mayor Greg Fischer.
Many suspect that similar legal challenges may be leveled at Governor Beshear.
Senator Mitch McConnell was one of the Republicans to criticize Beshear, saying that his order is a clear violation of religious freedom.