Two Colorado Churches Get Exemptions From Capacity Limits
A judge's ruling has given two churches a measure of relief in their efforts to fill their pews with parishioners during the current pandemic.
Denver Bible Church and Community Baptist Church, along with their respective pastors, had filed a lawsuit that "calls both the federal government and Colorado leaders into account for their violations of the right to free exercise of religion, among other abuses of power, primarily resulting from Governor Jared Polis’ COVID-19 related Executive Orders.”
According to a news release from the Thomas More Society, the ruling issued by Judge Daniel D. Domenico says the state can't tell churches how large their congregations should be when comparable secular gatherings are not so limited. The ruling says "the First Amendment does not allow government officials.... to treat religious worship as any less critical or essential than other human endeavors." You can read the entire ruling here.
The judge's order, at least for now, will prohibit Colorado officials from enforcing state and local orders in regards to occupancy limitations and face mask requirements during worship services. The ruling only affects these two churches in Denver, however, the implications could be far-reaching for houses of worship across the state.
Throughout the pandemic, churches have argued that health orders and restrictions implemented by the state and local officials unjustly and purposely target churches. Some have felt the restrictions have been based on what they believe to be an anti-religion bias of the government.
While the issue of fairness may be a valid point when discussing the treatment of churches and other places of public interaction and commerce, one can't deny the fact that churches are a prime breeding ground for the spread of COVID-19. Typically, Sunday morning church gatherings entail hand-shaking, hugging, close interactions and proximity, and singing -which is known to be a valid way the virus can be spread.
Time will tell how this case may affect the operations and procedures of other churches across Colorado. But, as the number of COVID cases in the state continues to climb, it is hoped that churches will make the health and safety of their parishioners a top priority.