Nevada Governor Allows Crowded Casinos But Not Church Gatherings of More Than 50 People

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal firm that represents Christians fighting to protect their First Amendment rights, filed a supplement brief in a lawsuit on behalf of Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley Church in Nevada. The church challenged the governor’s order it claimed treated church gatherings differently than secular gatherings.

Governor Steve Sisolak’s executive order allowed restaurants and stores to operate at 50 percent capacity, but churches were restricted to gatherings of no more than 10 during the state’s COVID-19 re-opening. The state even allowed close-contact businesses like hair salons and barbershops to re-open at 50 percent capacity. But not churches?

After the U.S. Department of Justice sent the governor a letter criticizing him for treating churches unfairly, he modified the restriction, raising the number of congregants to 50 people. But for churches like Calvary Chapel, that’s not good enough. Their legal counsel filed a supplement brief in their lawsuit last week.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley wishes to resume in-person worship services that would amount to less than 50% of its building’s capacity and has developed comprehensive social distancing and health and safety protocols to govern those services. Despite these health and safety measures, however, the governor’s church gathering ban threatens the church with criminal and civil penalties.

As the ADF brief notes, “selective enforcement of the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people further highlights the state’s preferential treatment of similar secular conduct.”

“Gov. Sisolak has chosen to suspend enforcement of the gathering ban selectively and even publicly supported some protestors who gathered together closely in violation of his directive,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus. “The Constitution doesn’t allow the governor to make arbitrary decisions supporting some speech while suppressing prayer and worship.”

The video below shows a re-opened casino. The governor considers church gatherings of more than 50 people a bigger threat than this scene:

Nevada Casinos Reopening – with credits from ADF Media Relations on Vimeo.

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