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DOJ says to 'expect action' next week on social distancing regulation and religious services

The Department of Justice said it expects to take action next week regarding the impact social distancing regulations are having on religious institutions across the country. By Evan Perez and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) -- The Department of Justice said it expects to take action next week regarding the impact social distancing regulations are having on religious institutions across the country.

Attorney General William Barr "is monitoring govt regulation of religious services," said Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec on Twitter late Saturday. "While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly (and) not single out religious orgs."

Kupec said to "expect action" from the DOJ this week.

The Justice Department did not respond to CNN's request seeking additional details about what action it is planning.

While the DOJ said Barr is monitoring what regulations entities are enacting, there doesn't appear to be a lot of options left for the department other than to file lawsuits along with churches to challenge restrictions.

Various courts are already hearing cases without DOJ involvement.

A federal judge on Saturday issued a temporary restraining order, ruling that a Louisville, Kentucky, church can hold a drive-in church Easter service. Drive-through liquor sales are also still permitted under the state's stay-at-home policy.

The judge's ruling overturned an effort by the city's mayor to stop that drive-in service. The order doesn't involve in-person church services which are allowed by the governor's executive order banning large gatherings.

In an interview on Fox News, Barr on Wednesday called current restrictions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus "draconian," as the White House coronavirus task force's health experts have lauded such measures as helpful to lowering the rate of spread.

The attorney general said he'd "hate to see restrictions on religion continue longer than they are strictly necessary" and that when the Trump administration's recommended period of isolation ends April 30, "we have to consider alternative ways of protecting people."

Asked by Fox News' Laura Ingraham if he would take action should a state or local official keep restrictions solely on religious gatherings after April 30, Barr said, "We're going to keep an eye on all these actions that restrict people's liberty."

While many states have implemented "stay-at-home" orders, a dozen or so states have made exceptions for some form of religious gatherings.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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