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Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

A federal court ruled Friday that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear cannot temporarily ban mass gatherings at religious services, giving churches and other religious institutions a pathway to hold services, AP reports.

The big picture: Churches in some states have been challenging governors' short-term bans on mass gatherings, saying stay-at-home orders infringe on Americans' right to religious assembly. However, state and local officials are trying to balance that freedom while slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The state of play: Kentucky churches and other places of worship must adhere to social distancing and hygiene guidelines when they reopen.

  • U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove said Beshear had “an honest motive” in trying to protect Kentuckians' health and safety amid the coronavirus outbreak, but the governor didn't give "a compelling reason for using his authority to limit a citizen's right to freely exercise something we value greatly — the right of every American to follow their conscience on matters related to religion.”

Zoom out:

  • In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam argued that allowing churches to hold gatherings of more than 10 people "would seriously undermine" efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, AP reports. The state is being sued by Lighthouse Fellowship Church of Chincoteague after its pastor received a citation for hosting 16 people at a Sunday service.
  • In Michigan, three churches are suing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order in federal court, claiming it infringes on their First Amendment rights to assemble, per The Detroit News.

Go deeper: God and COVID-19

Go deeper

Aug 10, 2020 - Health

At least 48 local public health leaders have quit or been fired during pandemic

Former California public health director Dr. Sonia Angell on Feb. 27 in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At least 48 local and state-level public health leaders have retired, resigned or been fired across 23 states since April, according to a review by the AP and Kaiser Health News.

Driving the news: California public health director Dr. Sonia Angell resigned on Sunday without explanation, a few days after the state fixed a delay in reporting coronavirus test results that had affected reopenings for schools and businesses, AP reports.

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is required to begin the impeachment trial at 1pm the day after the article is transmitted.