FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's attorney general has pushed back against some of the governor's coronavirus-related orders, taking aim at restrictions on travel and gatherings that include church services.
Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron threatened a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's ban on mass gatherings, unless in-person church services are allowed to resume.
"Simply put, the current prohibition against in-person church services is, in the view of this office, unconstitutional," Cameron said Tuesday at a news conference. "I'm reminded of this every time I drive by a big box store and see dozens of cars."
Cameron stressed, however, that he wasn't advocating for an immediate resumption of in-person religious services. He expressed confidence that faith leaders would follow guidance from health experts on when it's appropriate to restart those services.
Beshear reiterated Tuesday that his mass gathering orders do not single out churches.
He noted that people have found alternative ways to practice their faith — through virtual or drive-in services — while taking steps to help prevent the virus's spread.
"Folks, I'm not trying to set rules that are difficult, and I'm not trying to set rules that are controversial," the governor said at his daily coronavirus briefing. "I'm just trying to set rules that save peoples' lives."
Beshear recently ordered Kentucky State Police troopers to record the license plates of anyone attending a mass gathering during Easter weekend. Local health departments were advised to enforce a 14-day quarantine for any attendees.
A church in Bullitt County defied the order and sued the governor. A federal judge denied the church's motion for a restraining order blocking enforcement of Beshear's order.
Meanwhile, Cameron filed a motion in federal court contending that Beshear's restrictions on out-of-state travel are unconstitutional. The attorney general asked that he be made a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the restrictions on nonessential out-of-state travel.
"If the governor is going to ask Kentuckians to surrender their constitutional right to freely travel as part of the fight against COVID-19, such a restriction must be narrowly tailored," Cameron said. "The sweeping scope of his travel ban, if left unchecked, creates a dangerous precedent."
The governor has said the travel restrictions are aimed at slowing the virus's spread. Beshear's order allows crossing state lines for work or groceries, to care for loved ones, to receive medical care or when required to do so by court order.
Beshear noted Tuesday that he won preliminary rulings in court challenges against the mass gathering and travel restrictions. Beshear, the state's former attorney general, said those early rulings signaled that judges "are likely to rule that everything we have done is legal."
He said he's not going to get into a "back and forth" political fight over his virus-related actions.
"I'm not worried about what decisions either help or hurt me politically or help or hurt anybody else," Beshear said. "I just want to get through this by losing as few people as possible."
Last Saturday, people gathered at the state Capitol to protest Beshear's restrictions also called on Cameron to more aggressively challenge the governor's actions.
Meanwhile, Beshear on Tuesday reported 230 more coronavirus cases in Kentucky, bringing the statewide total to at least 4,375 since the pandemic began. The governor reported 12 more virus-related deaths, bringing the total death count to at least 224 in Kentucky. More than 1,610 people in Kentucky have recovered from the virus.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, even death.