Maine church plans to reopen, files for a restraining order against the state

The pastor of Calvary Chapel in Orrington says his church will reopen for in-person worship services this Sunday, despite the order from Gov. Janet Mills banning gatherings of more than 10 people.Ken Graves says social distancing guidelines have been laid out for those who would like to attend.The church also filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday asking a judge to impose a temporary restraining order against Mills’ executive order. The restraining order would prevent Graves or people who attend the service from being arrested for violating the state order.The lawsuit says, in part: “Calvary Chapel brings this case to restrain the troubling transgression of its fundamental and cherished liberties wrought by the imposition of Governor Mills’ orders surrounding COVID-19. 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 Governor Mills has stepped over a line the Constitution does not permit. 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.”The lawsuit alleges that the restrictions on gatherings, and therefore churches, violates the First Amendment.Graves added “It is the language chosen by our governor’s order that reveals the Christian church is in fact being targeted and discriminated against. Our state government has told the church that it is nonessential. I disagree in the strongest terms. We are among the most essential things that must remain open. Wiser governments in the past actually looked to the churches to gather and pray and to pool their resources in times of crises. The government has told the church that it is irrelevant and that it offers nothing. I reject that. We are not irrelevant, and we have more to offer than our governor apparently realizes.”Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey responded by saying the executive orders at issue in this lawsuit were carefully crafted in order to protect Mainers’ health during the COVID-19 pandemic.”We will represent the Governor and will vigorously defend the constitutionality of the challenged Executive Orders and the Governor’s authority to protect public health,” Frey said.

The pastor of Calvary Chapel in Orrington says his church will reopen for in-person worship services this Sunday, despite the order from Gov. Janet Mills banning gatherings of more than 10 people.

Ken Graves says social distancing guidelines have been laid out for those who would like to attend.

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The church also filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday asking a judge to impose a temporary restraining order against Mills’ executive order. The restraining order would prevent Graves or people who attend the service from being arrested for violating the state order.

The lawsuit says, in part: “Calvary Chapel brings this case to restrain the troubling transgression of its fundamental and cherished liberties wrought by the imposition of Governor Mills’ orders surrounding COVID-19. 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 Governor Mills has stepped over a line the Constitution does not permit. 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.”

The lawsuit alleges that the restrictions on gatherings, and therefore churches, violates the First Amendment.

Graves added “It is the language chosen by our governor’s order that reveals the Christian church is in fact being targeted and discriminated against. Our state government has told the church that it is nonessential. I disagree in the strongest terms. We are among the most essential things that must remain open. Wiser governments in the past actually looked to the churches to gather and pray and to pool their resources in times of crises. The government has told the church that it is irrelevant and that it offers nothing. I reject that. We are not irrelevant, and we have more to offer than our governor apparently realizes.”

Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey responded by saying the executive orders at issue in this lawsuit were carefully crafted in order to protect Mainers’ health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will represent the Governor and will vigorously defend the constitutionality of the challenged Executive Orders and the Governor’s authority to protect public health,” Frey said.