A Maine church that sued over coronavirus restrictions last year is taking a preemptive legal strike against future restrictions associated with a variant of the virus that’s spreading across the country.
Calvary Chapel in Bangor is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Democratic Gov. Janet Mills from enforcing or reinstating any pandemic-related restrictions due to the delta variant. In recent weeks, COVID cases have been on the rise in every state. Experts have cited low vaccination rates as a primary causal factor.
The state of Maine responded to the suit by noting that the governor’s civil emergency already expired, making the lawsuit unnecessary.
“For more than two months, there have been no restrictions whatsoever on the size of gatherings, and the state of emergency expired at the end of June. Given that, we are disappointed that Calvary Chapel continues to waste public and judicial resources by attempting to litigate an issue that is now moot,” said Marc Malon, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office.
But church officials are worried that restrictions could be reinstated. Describing Mills’ previous restrictions as a 14-month “reign of terror,” church officials claimed in their request for a preemptive injunction that any restrictions would violate their religious liberties protected by the Constitution.
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“No pastor, church, or parishioner in America should have to choose between worship and criminal sanction flowing from demonstrably discriminatory restrictions,” the church’s attorney wrote.
The Supreme Court has heard similar requests on behalf of religious organizations and lifted limits in California. In May, a California district court ordered the state to pay $1.3 million in attorney’s fees to a megachurch, citing the state’s lockdown policies as “discriminatory.”
The injunction request by the Maine church was filed last week, pending a Supreme Court decision on whether to hear the case.
The injunction is important because the Supreme Court won’t be meeting until late September to consider cases that will be heard in the coming year, according to Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which is representing Calvary Chapel.