Colorado Church Sues Governor Over Restrictions on Gatherings

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Recently, a church in Colorado State, known as the High Plains Harvest Church has sued the governor of the state, Jared Polis, over new public health guidelines that restrict large gatherings at religious places in order to stop coronavirus spread.

The church, located in Weld County town stated that the public health restriction goes against the first amendment right that allows all US citizens to practice their religion filed the case in the district court of Colorado on Monday.

In addition, the lawsuit also claims that the guideline violates the right to equal protection for all citizens under the law as well as the right to freedom of speech and expression.

The main argument presented in the suit raises several questions including why can people gather in different stores in large numbers but cannot do so in a church and even be possibly imprisoned or fined for it.

Mark Hotaling, who is the pastor of the High Plains Harvest Church, explains “a sincerely held religious belief that in-person attendance at church is central to his faith.”

The new public health orders in Colorado state, as well as other states that have eased lockdown-related restrictions, ban all gatherings that are larger than ten people including both public and private gatherings.

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The only exception is for gatherings which are ‘absolutely necessary’. Gatherings for church services do not fall in the list of gatherings that can get an exception.

The new guidelines allow gatherings at gas stations, grocery stores hardware stores, produce stands, and other fundamental businesses that people usually need for basic necessities.

However, the new suit argues that if mass gatherings can be allowed at different states across the state, there are no sound reasons for banning the gatherings of people at the church.

In addition, it further says that if the restrictions on gatherings in the church are eased, it would follow all the necessary instructions on social distancing given by the state and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Therefore, at least fifty people should be allowed to attend church service as it would be done under all compulsory restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.

Previously, a statement by the U.S. Attorney General William Barr emphasized on how the Department of Justice expects no discrimination against people from different religions and religious activities during the COVID-19 health crisis.

The statement has also been mentioned in the suit saying that the public health guidelines are indeed discriminatory to religious people wanting to go for in-person worship at churches.

Therefore, the suit has asked for a restraining order temporarily which can allow people to gather at the church for services as well as an injunction that does not enforce it during the court proceeding.

Currently, places of religious activity and worship such as churches and care homes have been noted to be the top places for coronavirus spread.

During a church service for Mother’s day in LA in early May, nearly two hundred people had to be quarantined as they were suspected to have the coronavirus infection.

This is why many health authorities have specifically encouraged people to pray at home and not gather at churches in large numbers.

However, no guidelines have imposed a complete ban on any religious activities and people are allowed to go to church or any other place or worship, given that they do not gather in crowds and follow all instructions for coronavirus infection as well as practice social distancing.

Religious activities and going to the church can significantly help in dealing with stress and anxiety related to the pandemic for many people, which is why health experts have not asked for completely hindering religious practice.

 

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