Church sues over Maine governor’s ban on in-person worship services

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ORRINGTON, Maine -- May 3, 2020 -- Calvary Chapel pastor Ken Graves leads a drive-in service Sunday in Orrington. (Natalie Williams | BDN)

Churches aren’t taking it anymore. They’re not knuckling under to Democratic governors who want to strip away their rights under the banner of protecting the public from a made-in-China virus.

This time it is an evangelical church in Orrington, Maine that is challenging Democratic Governor Janet Mills’ ban on in-person worship services, charging that the prohibition is in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Bangor Daily News reported that Calvary Chapel on May 5 filed the 45-page complaint in U.S. District Court in Bangor. It was made public May 6 and is seeking a temporary restraining order to keep police from charging Pastor Ken Graves or members of his congregation with crimes for flouting the governor’s ban on gatherings of 10 people or more.

The suit is the first court challenge to Mills’ dictates, purportedly imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but not the first to similar bans elsewhere in the nation. A similar suit has been successful in federal court against a Kansas directive. The judge in that case let the two plaintiff churches hold in-person services but did not grant the exception to the entire state.

The Maine suit alleges that Mills’ order violates the freedom of religion and assembly clauses of the First Amendment and other laws intended to protect houses of worship.

“Calvary Chapel brings this case to restrain the troubling transgression of its fundamental and cherished liberties wrought by the imposition of Gov. Mills’ orders surrounding COVID-19,” the complaint reads. “Calvary Chapel seeks not to discredit or discard the government’s unquestionable interest in doing that task for which it was instituted — protecting the citizenry.

“But, as is often true in times of crisis, Calvary Chapel respectfully submits that in an effort to uphold her sworn duties Gov. Mills has stepped over a line the Constitution does not permit,” it said. “Because of that, Calvary Chapel brings this action to ensure that this court safeguards the cherished liberties for which so many have fought and died.”

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