Bend churches join lawsuit over Gov. Brown’s stay-home order

Two Bend churches have joined a lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown claiming her stay-home orders are unconstitutional.

Prepare the Way Ministries and Bend Community Church have joined a lawsuit being argued by the Pacific Justice Institute which says it “seeks to invalidate” three orders, starting with Brown’s initial emergency declaration, signed on March 8.

The initial lawsuit was filed May 6th in Baker County.

“How can Lowes and Home Depot, not to mention liquor stores and pot shops, be deemed “essential” by Gov. Kate Brown during this COVID-19 pandemic, but churches are not?” asked Stephen Williams, founder/director of Prepare the Way Ministries. “During this time, when fear, isolation and hopelessness are so prevalent, churches have an essential message of hope, healing and restoration, and pastors should be given the responsibility to decide how best to safely gather.”

Lead attorney, Ray Hacke said plaintiffs are all over the state.

“There’s a rising tide of churches and churchgoers wanting to push back against Governor Brown’s oppressive executive orders, and this case will hopefully remind her that she is not free to dispense with constitutionally protected liberties, even in emergencies,” Hacke said in a statement.

The suit argues that emergency powers only last for 30 days and after that Brown would have needed legislative approval.

Brown last week outlined a detailed plan for beginning to reopen the state in the coming weeks while stressing that reduced restrictions on businesses and residents could be rolled back if the virus numbers increase.

Counties that have had few cases of the coronavirus and that can meet strict guidelines may be able to reopen certain businesses as early as May 15, including salons, gyms and limited sit-down restaurant service, under the first part of the plan.

Additionally, the state will loosen restrictions on daycares and retail shops statewide on May 15 while monitoring how infection levels respond.

The first hearing will be this Thursday in Baker City.

Williams said Brown has “usurped power she was never intended to have and through emergency declarations, become more of an authoritarian ruler instead of a Constitutionally-bound public servant.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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