When governors issued stay-at-home orders in March, many required or advised churches to limit their services to 10 people or fewer. Most churches complied, at first.
But as the shutdowns lengthened, and as public opinion on their efficacy shifted, a growing number of churches sued local and state governments, saying their First Amendment rights had been trampled on. The first wave of suits demanded the right to hold drive-in services, but now, an increasing number of churches are attempting to resume their in-person activities.
Jeremy Dys, an attorney at the First Liberty Institute, a legal nonprofit organization representing several churches in these lawsuits, told the Washington Examiner that more churches are suing for in-person services because many governors have not been transparent about the terms of their orders.
“What was once a temporary arrangement is becoming indefinite,” he said. “And that’s unacceptable. For all of these governors to keep extending their orders with no end in sight that to most people, no longer feels temporary but permanent.”
Dys said that the rhetoric of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is particularly troubling. De Blasio, who has come under fire for his treatment of New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities, said in April that churches and synagogues that violated his stay-at-home order might be closed “permanently.”