It seems that elected officials have had a particular animus against houses of worship during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments have ordered restrictions on the number of people inside church buildings.
The District of Columbia limited church attendance to 100 people outdoors. A federal court in DC recently granted Capitol Baptist Church a preliminary injunction against the city’s order.
Some jurisdictions have even ordered congregants not to sing to slow the spread of the virus. Churches are fighting back against this tyranny, and President Donald Trump’s U.S. Department of Justice has backed them up. What will happen under a Joe Biden administration?
For now, Christians have the legal system in which to launch battles to protect their religious freedom. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing the Hermiston Christian School, which has filed a federal lawsuit against the governor of Oregon over COVID-19 restrictions.
From ADF (emphasis added):
After nearly two months of advising that Hermiston Christian School could provide in-person instruction to the 51 students enrolled in its K-12 program, [Gov. Katherine] Brown reversed course and, on July 29, ordered private schools in Umatilla County and elsewhere to remain closed while offering exemptions to public schools with 75 or fewer students.
Why is the governor treating religious schools differently? According to ADF, a spokesperson for the governor said the administration wants to prevent a “mass exodus” from government schools to private schools. It’s about the money — taxpayers’ money.
The Christian school’s officials face 30 days in jail and $1,250 in fines if they re-open and allow students inside classrooms, although government schools of a similar size are allowed in-person instruction.
ADF lawyer David Cortman said the governor’s “personal preference for public over private education does not permit her to discriminate against faith-based schools. Oregon’s Department of Education has personally evaluated Hermiston Christian School and found that it is a safe place for school-aged children to spend full days, but the very same department threatens imprisonment and fines if the school dares to educate those very same children while they’re in the building. Public health crises do not suspend the Constitution or permit elected leaders to favor secular public schools by granting them unique exceptions.”
Hermiston Christian School seeks a temporary restraining order against the governor’s executive action and damages for setting up social distancing guidelines it now can’t use and for the loss of potential students who decided to enroll in different schools because of the closure.