A prominent Washington D.C. multi-racial church is getting support from the U.S. Department of Justice after it sued the city’s Democrat mayor over reopening restrictions. The mayor, Muriel Bowser, is being accused of unfairly applying the city’s lockdown orders.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, attorneys representing Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) claimed that the District government is showing preferential treatment in how it enforces the repeatedly extended lockdown orders.
Claiming a violation of the First and Fifth Amendments, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the suit pointed out that while they are forbidden from congregating even outdoors in excess of 100 people, Bowser herself has expressed public support for the recent mass protests in Washington where tens of thousands gathered.
Now, the DOJ is stepping in on the side of the church and it’s a picture that’s being painted across the nation in Democrat run cities and states.
“The Justice Department today filed a statement of interest in federal district court in Washington, D.C., arguing the Constitution and federal law require the District of Columbia to accommodate Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s effort to hold worship services outdoors, at least to the same extent the District of Columbia allows other forms of outdoor First Amendment activity, such as peaceful protests,” the statement read.
“The statement of interest was filed in Capitol Hill Baptist Church v. Bowser, a case challenging the District of Columbia’s refusal to allow outdoor worship because of the city’s COVID-19 restrictions,” the statement continued. “The suit challenges the permit denial under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The suit alleges that while places of worship are limited to 100 people at outdoor worship services, these limits do not apply to, among other things, outdoor protests and rallies accommodating thousands.”
The statement later said, “The United States’ brief explains there is no constitutional or statutory basis for allowing protests and rallies attended by thousands of people, while at the same time silencing religious worship. The brief also explains the city bears a high burden of proof to justify its actions under the First Amendment and RFRA because its actions impose a ‘substantial burden’ on religious exercise, as the church has shown here.”
A portion of the lawsuit documented the repeated times over the summer when mass protests violated the city’s lockdown orders, but for which there were no consequences. Referring to the June 6 protest near the White House, the suit notes, “Mayor Bowser attended the mass protest and said to the thousands in attendance, ‘It’s so wonderful to see everyone peacefully protesting, wearing their masks.’”
–Dwight Widaman and wire services