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: 300913

Reported Deaths: 5332
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41330845
Lake26364448
Allen17299290
Elkhart16665212
St. Joseph16319220
Hamilton12459164
Vanderburgh9428112
Tippecanoe826727
Porter791279
Johnson6139164
Hendricks5807154
Vigo574474
Monroe525247
Clark495374
Delaware4789103
Madison4760119
LaPorte446894
Kosciusko446139
Howard325575
Warrick316072
Floyd306177
Bartholomew303262
Wayne295261
Cass293431
Marshall289944
Grant258747
Noble246846
Hancock243749
Henry237136
Boone235154
Dubois230430
Dearborn208829
Jackson206033
Morgan200643
Knox178017
Gibson177022
Clinton174920
Shelby174554
Lawrence171646
DeKalb171229
Adams165219
Miami155114
Wabash153018
Daviess152243
Fayette145233
Steuben141113
Jasper138311
Harrison137624
LaGrange136629
Montgomery131226
Whitley129910
Ripley123714
Decatur123542
Huntington122310
Posey118913
Putnam118326
Wells118327
Randolph117819
White117421
Clay115621
Jefferson114214
Greene100253
Scott99818
Jay95012
Starke89221
Sullivan86615
Fulton81117
Perry80921
Jennings80514
Spencer8047
Fountain7378
Washington7176
Carroll66813
Franklin65925
Orange65728
Vermillion5832
Owen5816
Parke5416
Newton54012
Tipton53726
Rush5216
Blackford51211
Pike50218
Pulaski36810
Martin3485
Brown3263
Benton3251
Crawford2781
Union2621
Switzerland2473
Warren2352
Ohio2257
Unassigned0265

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 363304

Reported Deaths: 6020
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin49267665
Cuyahoga35214736
Hamilton29462371
Montgomery19636225
Butler14472144
Lucas14033409
Summit12962310
Stark8529197
Warren798975
Mahoning7068299
Lake662766
Lorain623697
Clermont563946
Delaware540335
Licking535875
Fairfield523763
Trumbull5159144
Greene510563
Clark501064
Allen460685
Marion457751
Wood4394107
Medina428654
Miami416465
Pickaway396448
Columbiana339597
Portage334471
Tuscarawas317557
Wayne314993
Richland306732
Mercer284737
Ross239259
Hancock232736
Muskingum231910
Auglaize223230
Putnam221449
Erie217165
Darke217058
Ashtabula215753
Geauga197351
Scioto193615
Union18658
Lawrence185436
Shelby184815
Athens18454
Seneca173118
Belmont158529
Madison156218
Sandusky152327
Preble148421
Huron147518
Defiance137921
Holmes137739
Logan123613
Knox122518
Fulton122025
Crawford119116
Ottawa118930
Washington116427
Clinton103414
Ashland102722
Williams10238
Jefferson10124
Highland99517
Henry98422
Brown9644
Champaign9345
Jackson90312
Van Wert8976
Fayette89217
Hardin86118
Morrow8552
Guernsey83313
Coshocton81413
Perry77012
Adams75012
Pike7261
Wyandot70516
Gallia70413
Paulding62710
Hocking61011
Noble59722
Carroll44310
Meigs37612
Monroe31021
Morgan2395
Vinton2105
Harrison1913
Unassigned00
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