Colorado established guidelines earlier this year for places of worship, including making sure all attendees wear face coverings. Guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say places of worship should “encourage the use of masks among staff and worshipers.” And while the virus is now rampant in many American communities, experts said facial covers and social distancing remained the country’s most powerful tools against Covid-19 before a vaccine.
But following a lawsuit against state and federal officials by Pastor Robert A. Enyart of Denver Bible Church and Pastor Joey Rhoads of Community Baptist Church, Judge Daniel D. Domenico backed down. on the side of the churches and concluded that the state restrictions violated the Constitution.
The judge said that while the state may have made the decisions in good faith, “the Constitution does not allow the state to tell a congregation its size when comparable secular gatherings are not so limited, or to tell a congregation than its reason because wanting to remove facial coverings is less important than that of a restaurant or a spa, ”according to court documents.
State ordinances, according to court documents, “treat places of worship different from comparable secular institutions.”
“We have the right, even the obligation to worship him [God], and it’s without government interference, ”Enyart told CNN following the judge’s ruling.
“The government has placed artificial limits on the number of people who can attend. And these limits make it virtually impossible for families to know if they can come to church, ”he added. “It’s too arbitrary, and we’re so grateful that the Federal Judge’s rules gave us (this) preliminary injunction to remove the only arbitrary limit and mask requirement.” ”
A spokesman for the governor’s office told CNN in an email that he would not comment on “ongoing litigation.” He added that the Attorney General had filed an urgent motion for a stay of the injunction on Monday, “pending an appeal in the tenth circuit.”
“The church is a place where this killer can really thrive”
The legal battle comes at a time when infections, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise across the country. At least two other states have linked Covid-19 outbreaks to churches.
In West Virginia, the governor said this week that at least 18 active outbreaks have been attributed to religious services in the state.
“We all know the church is a place where this killer can really thrive. We sing, we love to see all of those we love who are in our church family with us, ”Governor Jim Justice said Monday.
“It’s an absolute place a lot of our seniors go and we have to wear a mask, stay away, and from our seniors perspective you can get your services online or something like that.” , he added.
The CDC also warned that singing nearby could facilitate the spread of the virus and recommended that organizations temporarily consider “suspending singing, singing or shouting during events, especially when attendees are in close proximity to each other. other. ”
In Maine, at least three people have been hospitalized with the virus and 46 others infected after a fellowship event at a church.
At least 49 cases were linked to the outbreak in the church and a state health official said on Thursday that number is likely to rise over the next few days.