The District Court for the District of Columbia ruled last week that Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) could resume outdoor services despite restrictions on mass gatherings put in place by Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser.
In his ruling, Judge Trevor McFadden rebuked Bowser’s apparent hypocrisy when it came to Covid19 lockdown restrictions for certain mass gatherings but not for others.
“No matter how the protests were organized and planned, the District’s (and in particular, Mayor Bowser’s) support for at least some mass gatherings undermines its contention that it has a compelling interest in capping the number of attendees at the Church’s outdoor services,” McFadden wrote.
“The District attempts to distinguish the risks posed by mass ‘protest marches’ from those posed by ‘worship services in which individuals stand in place for long periods of time,’ … but it marshaled no scientific evidence on this point,” McFadden argued. “In fact, the District’s brief explains that the protests did not trigger any spike in COVID-19 ‘outbreaks,’ undermining the notion that large gatherings are always exceptionally dangerous,” he added.
Bowser’s Covid19 restrictions prohibit church services with more than 100 people. They had originally placed a limit on services of only 10 attendees. CHBC, a church with over 800 members, requested permission to meet at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium – a venue with an over 45,000 seat capacity – which would allow them more than enough space to socially distance to meet the city’s requirements. The city refused that request.
Read more about McFadden’s decision here.
Photo by Lorie Shaull via Wikimedia Commons