Judge rules in favor of DC church, green-lights outdoor worship services

As COVID-19 started making its way across the U.S., Democrat-run jurisdictions — including the nation’s capital — imposed strict lockdown orders barring large gatherings of all sorts, including worship services. But after Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was caught encouraging and even attending recent large protests despite her coronavirus-related restrictions, one church said enough is enough.

Now, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has said yes to the Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s request to be allowed to resume outdoor services in D.C., the Washington Examiner reports.

According to the Examiner, the church had argued in a lawsuit “that it was being discriminated against, given the mayor’s support for large outdoor protests being held over the past few months.” And District Court Judge Trevor McFadden apparently agreed.

“Her actions speak volumes”

The Examiner reported that the church has been holding outdoor services in a field in northern Virginia since D.C. authorities first denied their permit to host outdoor worship services for their some 850 members.

Mayor Bowser had imposed a limit of 50% capacity or 100 total people on religious gatherings, whether indoors or outside, The Hill reported, but she didn’t impose the same limitations on acts of protest.

Her hypocrisy didn’t go unnoticed by McFadden, who wrote in his ruling that the religious rights of the church congregants had been substantially burdened by the mayor’s strict regulations.

“No matter how the protests were organized and planned, the District’s (and in particular, Mayor Bowser’s) support for at least some mass gatherings undermines its contention that it has a compelling interest in capping the number of attendees at the Church’s outdoor services,” McFadden wrote, as the Examiner reported.

He continued: “The Mayor’s apparent encouragement of these protests also implies that the District favors some gatherings (protests) over others (religious services).”

Citing similar cases in other courts this year, including one in New York, McFadden went on to note that Bowser could have “remained silent” or “discouraged” the protests without condemning the demonstrators’ message, which may have been enough to sway him toward another decision. But “[h]er actions speak volumes,” the judge wrote of the mayor.

“A blessing”

In the end, Judge McFadden sided with the church and issued an injunction against the District of Columbia that prevents it from enforcing its restrictions against this particular church, provided that its congregants abide by other coronavirus-related protocols including mask-wearing and social distancing.

It was a decision that the church’s leaders heralded.

“With this ruling, our government is restoring equity by extending to religious gatherings the same protections that have been afforded other similar gatherings during this pandemic,” Pastor Justin Sok said in a statement, according to DCist. “We trust that this will be a blessing not only to our congregation but to the rest of our neighbors in D.C.”

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