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D.C. Judge Overturns Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Religious Restrictions

'It is for the church, not the District or this court, to define for itself the meaning of 'not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together'...'

A federal judge ruled on Thursday that Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s restrictions on church attendance “discriminate against houses of worship,” Liberty Counsel reported.

Judge Trevor McFadden, who President Donald Trump nominated to the District Court for the District of Columbia, said that the federal capital’s 25 percent capacity or 250-person attendance limitations at religious services violate the Constitution.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, with the legal aid of Becket Law, brought the case against Bowser and the District of Columbia.

Bowser’s order which placed numerical and percentage caps on building occupancy initially applied to businesses, but then the she modified it to exclusively target churches.

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“In practical terms, this means that the Archdiocese’s churches must stop admitting parishioners once they become a quarter full, but Whole Foods or Target can take in as many customers as they wish while complying with social-distancing requirements,” McFadden wrote.

In a case last year, Capitol Hill Baptist Church v. Bowser, McFadden ruled that the mayor’s 100-person limit on religious assemblies violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The order “ignores the Church’s sincerely held (and undisputed) belief about the theological importance of gathering in person as a full congregation,” he wrote. “It is for the church, not the District or this court, to define for itself the meaning of ‘not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.’ Hebrews 10:25.”

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver praised McFadden’s recent decision.

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“Judge Trevor McFadden clearly acknowledges that the First Amendment does not disappear because of Coronavirus,” he said. “Mayor Muriel Bowser has clearly discriminated against every church in D.C. while participating in a mass gathering of protestors with no limitations. This unequal treatment of churches is unconstitutional. We will continue the fight until religious freedom is totally restored.”

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