Public Health

Cases challenging expired COVID-19 church restrictions fail in Supreme Court and 8th Circuit

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A Maine church and Christian residents of a county in Missouri have failed in their lawsuits challenging COVID-19 restrictions that have since been lifted.

In a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Stephen G. Breyer on Monday rejected the Calvary Chapel of Bangor’s request for an injunction against future restrictions, report NBC News, the Portland Press Herald and the Associated Press.

The Calvary Chapel of Bangor had challenged a 50-person cap on church worshippers that ended with an order by Maine Gov. Janet Mills on May 24. Previously, Mills had banned all church services. The Calvary Chapel of Bangor had argued that the case wasn’t moot because Mills could reinstate the restrictions at any time.

In the second case, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis ruled 2-1 that four Christian plaintiffs who challenged restrictions by St. Louis County, Missouri, didn’t have standing.

How Appealing links to the July 30 opinion. A press release is here.

The majority reasoned that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they didn’t adequately allege that their churches would have allowed larger in-person gatherings if the state ban was not in effect.

In the alternative, the majority said, the case should be tossed because it is moot.

“There is no reasonable expectation” that the county will reinstate its limits on the number or occupancy percentage of worshippers at religious gatherings, the court said in an opinion by Judge Steven Colloton.

The dissenter, Judge David Stras, said he would have allowed the case to move forward.

“The court has a funny way of safeguarding ‘important constitutional value[s],’” he wrote. The majority has decided to “slam the courthouse doors shut.”

The case is Hawse v. Page.

See also: “A right to gather?: Balancing health risks and religious liberties during the COVID-19 crisis” “Chemerinsky: COVID-19 ruling reveals much about the new Supreme Court”

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