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Two S. Oregon churches sue Gov. Brown in federal court over COVID-19 order

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Lawsuit also names OSP, OHA directors, two county sheriffs

EUGENE, Ore. (KTVZ) – On the same day a Baker County judge refused to lift his injunction against Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19-related executive orders, two Southern Oregon churches filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Gov. Kate Brown and other officials, claiming a ban on large church gatherings violates their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and assembly.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit group, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eugene on behalf of the Edgewater Christian Fellowship in Grants Pass and the Church of God of Prophecy in Roseburg.

It names as defendants Brown, Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen, Josephine County Sheriff David Daniel and Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, in their official capacities.

Here's the ADF's news release announcing the lawsuit;

Oregon governor sued over COVID-19 order that allows numerous gatherings, restricts churches

Gov. Brown says gyms and restaurants okay, churches not
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

EUGENE, Ore. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing two Oregon churches filed suit in federal court Tuesday against Gov. Katherine Brown to challenge a provision of her executive order that allows pastors to be jailed up to 30 days and fined $1,250 for going to church with 25 other people on a Sunday morning, when they can join those same people and more at a dine-in restaurant for Sunday lunch with no penalty.

The Josephine and Douglas county churches are planning to resume in-person worship services on May 31 with strict social distancing and health and safety protocols, but the governor’s ban makes such services illegal and would subject the churches to possible criminal and civil penalties. The lawsuit indicates that a motion for a temporary restraining order is forthcoming that asks the court to immediately halt enforcement of the provision.

As of May 24, Josephine County had no active COVID-19 cases, and Douglas County had only two, with one person hospitalized and the other at home. Brown’s order singles out cultural, civic, and faith-based gatherings, banning them from holding gatherings of 25 or more people while allowing numerous secular gatherings that exceed that number, including shopping malls, retail stores, schools, ski resorts, and offices.

“While responding to crises can be difficult, this case is not,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “There is no legitimate justification for banning church services of 26 or more—with responsible social distancing and health and safety protocols—while allowing malls, gyms, restaurants, and retail establishments to fill to social-distancing capacity.”

In preparation for resuming in-person worship services, the churches are adopting plans to follow strict social distancing and health and safety protocols. The churches have voluntarily implemented precautions including making hand sanitizer available to attendees; encouraging the use of masks; taking various measures to direct traffic flow; requiring all ushers greeting or directing attendees to wear face coverings; prohibiting any handouts to be passed to attendees during services; directing attendees to sanctuary seating designed to provide six feet of separation between families and individuals; and prohibiting snacks or coffee from being served.

“Singling out churches for special punishment while allowing others to have greater freedom not only makes no logical sense, it’s clearly unconstitutional, just as others have warned the governor,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “Gov. Brown has had plenty of opportunity to correct the obvious constitutional problem with issuing a church-specific ban and has chosen not to. We support authorities’ efforts to prioritize the public’s health and safety, but people of faith should be free to assemble if other groups are free to assemble.”

ADF attorneys filed Edgewater Christian Fellowship v. Brown in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Eugene Division. Attorney Steve Elzinga is serving as co-counsel in the case for the churches.

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Comments

27 Comments

    1. lololol Since none of this stuff was happening before this current virus showed up why would anyone think it would be happening now??? lolololol

      1. While there are 1000s of churches in Oregon, these few prefer to play a losing game of politics and to give money to lawyers rather than the needy. Sooo much winning!!!

    2. Is food safe?
      So far, there’s no evidence that the virus is transmitted via food.
      https://www.livescience.com/how-covid-19-spreads-transmission-routes.html
      https://www.biospace.com/article/all-the-ways-we-know-that-you-can-get-coronavirus/
      SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted by water droplets, or aerosolized (water droplets evaporate and the virus remains in the air) containing the virus contacting susceptible membranes in a persons’ nose, sinus, lungs, and eyes.
      If you keep food out of your nose, don’t inhale it, or try to breathe it, you’ll be OK.

      Stay scared
      Stay ignorant
      Do not question and comply

  1. Many of the churches who do want to open have some safety measures in mind. Unfortunately for them the vocal minority out in front of the argument for them are the defiant supporters who gather closely with others without wearing masks. It sends a message that those who want to see this happen are generally ignorant outliers, and gives the impression chinches would open an operate in the same thoughtless way.

    1. The phase I order seems to give them a much better claim under existing federal constitutional interpretations than they would have had under the original set of executive orders. This is a very different claim than the one presented in Baker County (which is primarily a question of statutory authority under Oregon law).

      1. ORS 401.165…..Show me where the governor followed ANY of it. That IS the law she is claiming and using, primarily of course, and declared in Baker. She didn’t, therefore has NO AUTHORITY

        1. That’s got nothing to do with this claim, but what element do you think she didn’t follow? She just has to declare a state of emergency after determining that an emergency has occurred or is imminent (401.165(1)) and specify the geographic area (401.165(5)).

      2. I don’t see how. The Governor’s order never singled out churches; it just banned gatherings of more than 25 people. Churches could still hold services if they figured out how to work around this.

        There’s good reason for this. Having a large group of people in an enclosed place for an extended period of time is ideal for “super spreading”, even more when people are expelling droplets via singing.

        The comparison to an open restaurant is invalid; the restaurant is continually moving groups in and out and it’s not the same group over an extended period of time. Restaurants are still prohibited for renting out a banquet room for large groups. Large church gatherings are still not being singled out.

        1. I think the government has arguments, especially procedural arguments regarding the TRO, but is the court going to treat “phase I” as an exercise of as “emergency powers,” and is the permitted operation of restaurants going to be sufficiently distinguished from church gatherings for the court to see the current order as neutral? I know the the ruling in the EDCA at the start of the month got there on distinguishing liquor stores, grocery stores and dispensaries as places people pass through rather than gathering for a communal purpose, but I think restaurants cloud the issue.

  2. These churches are desparate for money!! LOL!! So off they go to lose in court and line the pockets of the lawyers!!! Sooooo much winning!!!

    Golf and a whore anyone!! trump / kim 2020!!! TRUE LOVE !!

      1. Yep its not like churches pay any taxes!!! And they of course don’t need the money!!! Just like “hydroxychloroquine has been the greatest game changer in the history of medicine”””!!!LOL!!! silly superstitious hillbillies!!! You poor people will believe anything!!!!

        golf and a whore anyone!!!! trump / kim 2020!!!! TRUE LOVE!!!

    1. As long as Unclefesterd can get his booze and smokes, he cares not about anything else. Festered is afraid to leave the basement and his ‘puter so he has his momma go to get goodies for him.

  3. Exactly!!!! If your religion requires you to go to church to worship in a “House of GOD”, you need to check your religion. What a farce. Mean while, the Catholic church is still moving child molesters around like chess pieces behind the scenes

  4. It really makes no sense to keep churches closed if they follow all guidelines as all other businesses. I also don’t understand the church-bashing comments above. I am not a religious person but it is none of my or your business if other people are and how they practice their religion as long as they do it within the boundaries of the law.
    I hope the churches win, if golf courses could remain open during the pandemic lock down I don’t see why anything else was forced to close to begin with.

      1. I have never been to or heard of a church with such activities. Maybe in the one your mom took you and your half siblings which shows your background.
        Now when you decide to post something contributing to the story instead of trying to humiliate your fellow citizens I am ready when you are!

  5. Queen Kate by official Royal decree says we can go get our weed, liquor, an abortion, pints of beer with 150 people at the food carts.., we can not work and ruin the Oregon economy while Zero Central Oregonians have died from a virus that kills old people who are unhealthy. Shutting Churches is illegal, unconstitutional and wont be tolerated. All you Christian haters can hate all you want but you are on the wrong side of God and History.

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