Gov. Beshear praises work of local health officials but doesn’t say what the state is doing to help them in conflicts

The governor's comments were in response to problems the Christian County Health Department is having with a local restaurant that refused to stop serving customers after its permit was suspended.

Gov. Andy Beshear invoked the memory of his late grandfather, a Baptist minister from Dawson Springs, as he gave a sermon-style response to a report that someone threatened a Christian County Health Department employee. 

Gov. Andy Beshear addresses a question Tuesday during a press briefing regarding the report of a threat to a Christian County Health Department employee as Virginia Moore interprets in sign language. (YouTube screenshot)

“There’s right and there’s wrong. There’s good and there’s evil. … regardless of what you think about COVID, threatening a local health department official is not good, it’s evil,” Beshear said Tuesday during his press briefing in Frankfort. “It is wrong. Stop it. Stop it. Whoever’s out there doing this, stop it. You don’t get to threaten people outside of a pandemic, you don’t get to threaten them inside a pandemic. Our society doesn’t work that way.”

Beshear was responding to a question about what the state does to address problems that local health officials encounter when enforcing the state’s coronavirus regulations, including the governor’s executive order that closed restaurants and bars to indoor service Nov. 20 to Dec. 13. Hoptown Chronicle raised the question with the governor following news Monday that Hopkinsville police filed a report of a possible threat directed at a Christian County Health Department employee through social media.

A commenter on a Facebook post suggested a health inspector might have an accident after the health department suspended The Village Restaurant’s food service permit Friday for failing to fully open two sides of a parking lot tent owners Chris and Krystl Martinez are using to serve diners.

On Monday, County Health Director Kayla Bebout said the local agency was seeking guidance from the state about how to deal with the restaurant owners ignoring the permit suspension. On Tuesday, the restaurant continued to serve diners in the tent. 

Beshear did not directly answer the question about what the state is doing for local agencies that encounter resistance and threats, but he called county health department employees “heroes” who are “fighting to save people’s lives even when they are called names and threatened.”

He did say such threats should be pursued by law enforcement.

Freedom of speech does not give anyone the “right to make other people fear for their safety,” he said. “That is not an American liberty.”

Beshear said he thinks his grandfather would have told anyone making a threat to look at what the Bible says about caring for other people. 

Businesses that ignore the state’s coronavirus regulations are threatening the rule of law, said Beshear. 

“You are diminishing the rule of law that is one of the bedrocks of this country. If you say you love America, part of America is the rule of law. It is what allows us to be a peaceful society,” he said. 

“… There are going to be long-standing implications for what we are seeing right now,” he said. “This concept that liberty under the constitution means if I disagree with something, I can do whatever I want — that is un-American. Not American at all. People should be better than that.”

The Hopkinsville restaurant’s Facebook post, announcing the owners would continue service after their permit was suspended, had been shared more than 300 times as of Tuesday evening. Several people commenting said they planned to come from out of town to eat in the tent. 

Gov. Beshear praises work of local health officials but doesn’t say what the state is doing to help them in conflicts

Jennifer P. Brown | Hoptown Chronicle

Jennifer P. Brown is co-founder, publisher and editor of Hoptown Chronicle. You can reach her at She spent 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Kentucky New Era. She is a co-chair of the national advisory board to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, governing board president for the Kentucky Historical Society, and co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.