Liberty Counsel Argues VA Governor Is Not Immune in Church Case

Oct 27, 2021

RICHMOND, VA – Liberty Counsel presented oral argument today to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding that Governor Ralph Northam is not immune from the federal lawsuit on behalf of Lighthouse Fellowship Church, since his original unconstitutional orders clearly violated the religious freedom of churchgoers. The governor unilaterally issued the executive orders and has the power to enforce them, and he cannot escape responsibility for his unconstitutional acts. 

Governor Northam is the proper defendant in this case since he originated and enforced his unconstitutional orders that the church could hold meetings with an unlimited number of people to feed, shelter, and provide social services, but religious services were restricted to no more than 10 people. As a result, police served a summons last year to Pastor Kevin Wilson on Palm Sunday for holding a church service for 16 people spaced far apart in a sanctuary that is rated for 293 people. The charge was violating Virginia Governor Northam’s COVID Order 55 with a penalty of up to a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. Yet, commercial establishments in the area were filled with people. The Commonwealth of Virginia has since dropped the criminal charges against Pastor Wilson.

The Fourth Circuit previously denied the motion for preliminary injunction and sent it back to the district court. Then Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen dismissed the lawsuit by incorrectly ruling that the church could not sue the governor. Every other case in the country involving COVID executive orders include the respective governors as a defendant. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Governor Ralph Northam is not immune as the defendant in this lawsuit regarding his unconstitutional COVID executive orders. The governor issued and enforced his illegal orders and cannot now escape responsibility.” 

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