Maine Church Continues to Defend Right to Worship

Dec 22, 2020

BOSTON, MA – The First Circuit Court of Appeals sidestepped its duty to rule on the merits of Calvary Chapel of Bangor’s appeal in the lawsuit against Governor Janet Mills’ unconstitutional orders against churches. Liberty Counsel will immediately ask the district court for an injunction. 

The Court has not taken seriously the irreparable harm caused by Gov. Mills’ unconstitutional COVID restrictions on houses of worship. Calvary Chapel will immediately request the District Court to issue an injunction in compliance with the Supreme Court’s clear roadmap.  

When Calvary Chapel of Bangor filed its lawsuit in May, the governor’s orders permitted no religious gatherings, including parking lot services, and violations carried criminal penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

Under the challenged orders, the church can hold secular but not religious meetings. The church can feed, shelter, and provide social services to an unlimited number of people, but religious services were previously prohibited, and now remain limited, in the same building where non-religious services can be held.

Throughout the litigation Gov. Mills has haphazardly changed and reinterpreted her restrictions on churches, even as she first relaxed but then re-imposed restrictions on many businesses and entities based on her evaluation of the “public health metrics.” But so-called “essential” commercial and non-religious entities that include liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, warehouse clubs, “big box” and “supercenter” stores that accommodate gatherings of people were never limited or threatened with criminal sanctions, and people still may gather in these venues without restrictions. Churches, however, remain subject to severe and continually changing numerical limits. 

At the time Liberty Counsel filed suit, Gov. Mills banned ALL worship, even in the parking lot. After Liberty Counsel filed suit, she said at some point in the future she would allow very limited worship, but only after churches applied to re-open, were approved, and displayed a badge on the building. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Calvary Chapel of Bangor and all houses of worship have special protections under the First Amendment and cannot be unequally treated or relegated to second class status. The First Amendment deems churches to be ‘essential.’ Worship is essential. Governor Janet Mills has blatantly discriminated against churches, and we look forward to ceasing her unconstitutional actions so she never does this again.” 

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