If there was ever a group of people who have had their 1st Amendment Rights violated, it is the Church of Jesus Christ!
If you haven’t read it lately, here is what our Founding Fathers put in the very first protection in the Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments): “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” bolding added.
“Prohibiting the free exercise thereof” means that under NO circumstances does ANY governing authority even at the highest level of the US Congress have the right to prohibit any church for any reason to gather in any limit of numbers nor force the wearing of masks nor sitting and staying 6 feet apart, not shaking hands, not hugging, and not embracing each other, PERIOD!
No governor can make a law. No mayor can make a law. Even if a state legislature or a city or county law making group were to pass such a law, it would be wholly unConstitutional as no lawmaking body can override nor circumvent the US Constitution.
Church buildings and congregational gatherings are not a place of public accommodation. Therefore they are not subject to regulations like businesses open to the public.
The Calvary Chapel Church of Dayton, NV challenged the governor’s directives he chose to exercise under the “State of Emergency” where he thought he could place limitations on the size of gatherings. His bias was revealed when he opened casinos and other places of business with a 50% limit capacity based on fire codes but for “places of worship” he capped at 50 people regardless of the size of the facility.
The first lawsuit ended in a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that the governor did have the right to limit their capacity to just 50 people. A second run at the violation of their First Amendment Rights was overturned by the 9th District court of Appeals on December 17, 2020 that ruled they were NOT subject to the limitations of Directive 021 or the replacement Directive 035 based on the “Free Exercise” clause of the First Amendment. See it here
If you choose to worship with no restrictions which according to the law you are free to do, the scare tactics that you could be in violation of the law are just that, scare tactics, for there is NO LAW requiring the wearing of face coverings, social distancing, or limits on the number of congregants at your facility.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of overruling the restrictions governor Coumo placed on places of worship in the state of New York in late November 2020 with the unsigned majority opinion stating “Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”
Should the authorities come to your facility, be sure to have video recordings of your interaction with them, they will need to have a warrant to enter. If they do not have a warrant, inquire the reason that they are there and then politely tell them to leave and come back when they have obtained a warrant outlining a specific issue with the law, the law, not an edict, guideline, or suggestion.
Should you find your congregation in need of legal help, Joey Gilbert Law offices is the legal team that argued for the Dayton church. You might also consider the Constitutional Law Group. Both are listed on the Websites page of this site.