Thursday, March 30, 2023
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New Mexico Gov. Fines Churches $10,000 Each For Holding Christmas Eve Services

'These illegal and selfish gatherings will directly contribute to more suffering and illness in our state...'

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham fined two churches $10,000 apiece for violating the state’s coronavirus restrictions by holding in-person services on Christmas Eve.

The churches, Legacy Church and Cavalry Church, posted videos on their respective social media pages showing hundreds of parishioners gathered together singing Christmas carols during Christmas Eve services.

The videos garnered attention from the local media, which then caught Grisham’s eye.

In a statement, Grisham’s office blasted the churches for defying her lockdown order, which limits capacity in worship services to 25% and requires masks for all attendees, and implied that the pastors were “pro-virus.”

“We all wish this pandemic were over, but it’s not, and no pro-virus pastor may deem it so. So many New Mexicans have sacrificed—and lost—so much in this pandemic,” Grisham’s communications director, Trepp Stelnicki, said, according to KOAT.

“These illegal and selfish gatherings will directly contribute to more suffering and illness in our state,” Steknicki continued. “These church leaders should reflect on the danger they’ve unleashed in their communities.”

Each church was fined $5,000 for exceeding the capacity limits, even though it was not clear based on the videos how many people were in attendance, and $5,000 for failing to ensure that parishioners wore masks.

Legacy Church responded to Grisham’s order and said it’s time she “fold her losing hand against churches as Colorado has, and recognize what the U.S. Supreme Court has recently said about churches—because we must continue to do what we are called to do.”

The Supreme Court ruled last year that state governments cannot impose unconstitutional restrictions on churches while allowing other institutions to remain open.

“Government is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis. At a minimum, that Amendment prohibits government officials from treating religious exercises worse than comparable secular activities, unless they are pursuing a compelling interest and using the least restrictive means available,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote.

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