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Two Colorado churches win lawsuit against state's Covid-19 mask and crowd limit requirements

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Posted: Oct 23, 2020 3:11 PM
Updated: Oct 23, 2020 3:11 PM

As the US enters what experts say will be another Covid-19 surge, a federal judge ruled two Colorado churches don't have to limit how many worshippers come in and don't have to require them to wear face coverings.

Colorado set guidelines earlier this year for places of worship that include ensuring all attendees wear face coverings. Guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say places of worship should "encourage use of masks among staff and congregants." And as the virus now runs rampant across many US communities, experts have said face coverings and social distancing remain the country's most powerful tools against Covid-19 ahead of 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 sided with the churches and found the state's restrictions violate 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 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," according to court documents.

The state's orders, court documents said, "treat houses of worship different from comparable secular institutions."

"We have a right, even an obligation to worship him [God], and that's without government interference," Enyart told CNN following the judge's decision.

"The government has put artificial limits on how many people could attend. And those limits make it pretty much impossible for families to know if they could come to church," he added. "It is too arbitrary, and we are so thankful this federal judge rules gave us (this) preliminary injunction to strike down the one arbitrary limit and the mask requirement."

A spokesman for the governor's office told CNN in an email he would not comment on "pending litigation." He added the attorney general filed an emergency motion for a stay of the injunction Monday, "pending appeal in the Tenth Circuit."

'Church is a place that absolutely this killer can really thrive'

The court battle comes amid a time where infections, hospitalizations and deaths are trending upward across the country. At least two other states have linked Covid-19 outbreaks to churches.

In West Virginia, the governor said this week at least 18 active outbreaks were traced to church services in the state.

"We all know that church is a place that absolutely this killer can really thrive. We're singing, we love to see all those that we love and that are in our church family with us," Gov. Jim Justice said Monday.

"It's an absolute place where a lot of our elderly go and we've got to wear a mask, stay a pew apart, and from the standpoint of our elderly, you can get your services online or something like that," he added.

The CDC has also warned singing in close proximity can facilitate the spread of the virus and has recommended organizations consider temporarily " suspending singing, chanting, or shouting during events especially when participants are in close proximity to each other."

In Maine, at least three people were 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 Thursday that number will likely rise over the coming days.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 724214

Reported Deaths: 13363
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion989071736
Lake53172962
Allen40223675
Hamilton35354408
St. Joseph35270550
Elkhart28228437
Tippecanoe22297217
Vanderburgh22231396
Porter18560304
Johnson17832376
Hendricks17098313
Clark12897191
Madison12519339
Vigo12379244
Monroe11811168
LaPorte11691210
Delaware10571185
Howard9823215
Kosciusko9347117
Hancock8204139
Bartholomew8036155
Warrick7754155
Floyd7630176
Wayne7002198
Grant6986174
Boone6652101
Morgan6529139
Dubois6139117
Marshall5954111
Dearborn577177
Cass5769105
Henry5671102
Noble555783
Jackson499672
Shelby488196
Lawrence4470120
Gibson433791
Harrison432972
Clinton426353
DeKalb423284
Montgomery423088
Whitley392739
Huntington386380
Steuben381057
Miami379165
Knox370990
Jasper361347
Putnam357760
Wabash352478
Adams340354
Ripley338370
Jefferson328481
White312254
Daviess294399
Wells290281
Decatur282992
Fayette278362
Greene276085
Posey270733
Scott264453
LaGrange263870
Clay258945
Randolph239581
Washington239131
Spencer230431
Jennings228848
Starke213252
Fountain211846
Sullivan210442
Owen195856
Fulton194240
Jay190429
Carroll187820
Perry182537
Orange181854
Rush172625
Vermillion167643
Franklin167235
Tipton161945
Parke145416
Blackford134332
Pike132634
Pulaski115945
Newton106734
Brown101441
Crawford99014
Benton98114
Martin87415
Warren80515
Switzerland7808
Union70610
Ohio56211
Unassigned0413

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1077284

Reported Deaths: 19344
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1251861392
Cuyahoga1110942107
Hamilton796611200
Montgomery511561012
Summit46842933
Lucas41780782
Butler38228580
Stark32099907
Lorain24828480
Warren24214297
Mahoning21403586
Lake20518368
Clermont19704238
Delaware18463131
Licking16373210
Fairfield16083199
Trumbull15966466
Medina15192262
Greene14991244
Clark13927297
Wood13020188
Portage12772201
Allen11564231
Richland11277198
Miami10652215
Muskingum8783132
Wayne8738210
Columbiana8735229
Pickaway8527121
Marion8494135
Tuscarawas8459243
Erie7831154
Hancock6880126
Ross6821152
Ashtabula6756169
Geauga6659148
Scioto6385101
Belmont5828167
Union569347
Lawrence5536102
Jefferson5481151
Huron5409119
Darke5333122
Sandusky5316120
Seneca5248121
Athens518058
Washington5137109
Auglaize487084
Mercer479085
Shelby466893
Knox4472110
Madison434761
Putnam4260100
Ashland420989
Fulton419869
Defiance416597
Crawford3954106
Brown391857
Logan380676
Preble378298
Clinton369861
Ottawa365779
Highland352761
Williams337075
Champaign329258
Guernsey314453
Jackson311651
Perry294250
Morrow283639
Fayette280649
Hardin269864
Henry267766
Coshocton263858
Holmes2587101
Van Wert242463
Pike237233
Adams235852
Gallia235148
Wyandot230654
Hocking214662
Carroll190947
Paulding171140
Meigs144339
Noble133437
Monroe130642
Morgan108223
Harrison107337
Vinton82015
Unassigned02
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Huntington
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Decatur
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Van Wert
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Shower and thunderstorm chances increase Thursday afternoon.
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