Oregon Supreme Court upholds Brown’s stay-home order


The Oregon Supreme Court has vacated a lower court injunction that tossed out Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s stay-at-home orders to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Justice Christopher Garrett said in his opinion that the Baker Circuit Court “erred in failing to give sufficient attention to the Governor’s role, in emergency situations, in determining what is in the public interest.”

Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew B. Shirtcliff had ruled in May the governor’s executive orders in response to the global pandemic exceeded a 28-day limit adopted by state lawmakers and were no longer valid. His ruling was in response to a suit filed by 10 churches, the non-profit Pacific Justice Institute and 21 others against the governor.

Soon after Shirtcliff’s ruling, the high court justices ordered him to either dismiss the injunction or explain why he shouldn’t. Shirtcliff stood by his ruling, forcing the Supreme Court to decide on the case.

In his initial opinion, Shirtcliff wrote that the damage to Oregonians and their livelihood was greater than the dangers presented by the coronavirus.

He also noted that other businesses deemed essential, such as grocery stores, had been allowed to remain open even with large numbers of people present and have relied on masks, social distancing and other measures to protect the public.

“The governor’s orders are not required for public safety when plaintiffs can continue to utilize social distancing and safety protocols at larger gatherings involving spiritual worship,” he wrote.

Many Oregon counties have moved into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, which allows for group gatherings of up to 50 people indoors. Churches are allowed to expand gatherings up to 250 people only if they’re able to meet restrictions on sanitation and can keep people 6-feet apart.

The churches feel the restrictions are unfairly keeping their congregations from being able to worship together.

This is a developing story. 

You can read the Supreme Court’s full response below.

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