An Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawsuit was filed late Friday against Governor Jay Inslee in U.S. District Court challenging the State of Washington’s unconstitutional restrictions on church services.
A similar lawsuit was filed against Illinois’ Democratic Governor, J.B. Pritzker, last week; he then reversed course on his restrictions in less than 24 hours.
“We’re proud to support this lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom,” said Mark Miloscia, Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. “Governor Inslee’s restrictions on religious worship are clear, flagrant, and unambiguous examples of religious discrimination, and we are confident that the Court will side with the First Amendment.”
On Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in a similar California case, though are key differences; Washington only allows a maximum of 50 in a church, while California allows 100. The outcome of that case has no impact on the suit brought against Governor Inslee here in Washington State.
“The same Washingtonians who can be trusted to comply with social-distancing and other health guidelines in secular settings can also be trusted in religious settings,” said ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner. “The Constitution simply doesn’t permit Gov. Inslee to assume the worst when people meet to worship but assume the best when those same people go to work, do some shopping, eat at a restaurant, or go about the rest of their daily lives.”
FPIW has maintained that Washington’s state officials have a responsibility to reopen our state responsibly, and in accordance with proper public health practices. We believe safety is paramount and we have counseled with and listened to the concerns of many faith leaders here in Washington who believe they can keep their congregations safe, like other businesses who are allowed to open.
However, we also strongly believe that the government cannot force churches to open more slowly than other similar secular activities and assemblies. Churches should be allowed to reopen at the same pace as the rest of the state – a position also stated in the legal complaint filed against the governor.
“Too many elected officials are using COVID-19 to elevate their power, while at the same diminish and undermine the influence of the church,” Miloscia added. “Gov. Inslee permits multiple thousand-person protests to operate all weekend in Seattle. We call on Governor Inslee to treat churches as similar and end his unconstitutional ban on religious services as quickly as possible, so Washingtonians can seek the spiritual sustenance and healing they so desperately need following the wrath of COVID-19.”
This is a developing story and FPIW will keep you up-to-date.