Colorado restricts the number of people inside church buildings and also requires congregants to wear masks. Two churches and their pastors filed a federal lawsuit over these COVID-19 restrictions.
The Thomas More Society, which represents high-profile Southern California pastor John MacArthur, also represents the two churches. The churches argued that the state’s restrictions on houses of worship are more severe than those that apply to other “critical” businesses whose settings pose a similar COVID-19 risk, and the state also allows exceptions to wearing masks when removing them are necessary to carry out a particular activity.
The court agreed with this argument. The Thomas More Society announced that the court ruled in their favor. An excerpt (emphasis added):
The order, issued by the Honorable Daniel D. Domenico, states, “…the Constitution does not allow the State to tell a congregation how large it can be when comparable secular gatherings are not so limited, or to tell a congregation that its reason for wishing to remove facial coverings is less important than a restaurant’s or spa’s.”
Domenico also noted, “The First Amendment does not allow government officials, whether in the executive or judicial branch, to treat religious worship as any less critical or essential than other human endeavors. Nor does it allow the government to determine what is a necessary part of a house of worship’s religious exercise.”
The victory means that these churches are no longer restricted to a certain number of people in the sanctuary or required to wear masks, as long as they follow social distancing guidelines. The state is appealing the decision.