During a hearing today before federal Judge Christine Arguello, Andrew Wommack Ministries International (AWMI) filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, thus divesting the court from continuing hearing on an emergency motion filed by the county and state public health departments. Their motion requested that AWMI be held in contempt and prohibit future conferences.
The judge first denied the request to hold AWMI in contempt, stating the court had not issued an injunction against the ministry. However, the judge then stated she had authority to hear the defendants’ emergency motion under state law. Liberty Counsel argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on state law because neither AWMI nor the defendants brought state law claims before the court. The defendants’ motion lacked any legal basis and it also violated many federal rules. Federal courts under Article III of the Constitution have limited jurisdiction. Such courts have no authority to reach outside the record and the legal claims to decide state law claims not before them.
The only law at issue in the District Court case filed by AWMI is the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects private individuals or organizations against government restrictions on free speech and the free exercise of religion. The First Amendment does not give authority for the government to restrain the speech of private actors.
AWMI voluntarily dismissed its claim for now and is assessing conferences it may want to hold in the future. The ministry is also considering all legal options to vindicate its First Amendment rights.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “We are pleased the District Court recognized it could not hold Andrew Wommack Ministries International in contempt. The state and county’s attempt to highjack the lawsuit to get their own emergency injunction was averted. The Constitution and rules are there to protect litigants. Courts do not have freewheeling authority. A party should not have to guess as to the claim or charge and should have clear notice of the basis of legal action asserted. The First Amendment legal challenges to the orders issued by Governor Jared Polis deserve a fair hearing.”