2 more churches sue Brown over virus gathering restrictions

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two additional churches are suing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, saying her social gathering restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic violate their constitutional right to the freedom of religion and assembly.

The Edgewater Christian Fellowship in Grants Pass and the Church of God of Prophecy in Roseburg on Tuesday filed a federal suit in U.S. District Court in Eugene against Brown, the Oregon Health Authority director, Oregon state police superintendent and the Josephine and Douglas county sheriffs, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Both churches believe they are “called to’’ resume in-person worship services after suspending them in compliance with the state’s “Stay Home Save Lives’’ orders, according to the suit. They want to resume in-person worship services on May 31 with social distancing, hand-washing and other sanitary protocol, their lawyer Steve Elzinga wrote in the suit.

Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit organization, are representing the two churches and their pastors.

It comes as the state Supreme Court prepares to decide whether a Baker County judge’s May 18 preliminary injunction, which found the governor’s emergency coronavirus order restrictions “null and void,” should stand or be dismissed. The injunction stemmed from a lawsuit filed in rural Baker County Circuit Court by 10 churches and 21 other individuals.

According to the suit, the Edgewater Christian Fellowship on March 17 suspended in-person worship services and began conducting services online. As of Sunday, Josephine County had no active COVID-19 cases and had recorded 25 total cases since the outbreak, the suit says.

Roseburg Church of God of Prophecy on March 16 suspended in-person worship services and began conducting services online. Between March 8 and Sunday, there have been 25 known COVID-19 positive cases in Douglas County.

Image: Edgewater Christian Fellowship Facebook page.

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