Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Andrew Wommack Ministries International (AWMI) against Governor Jared Polis and the state and local public health departments for discriminating against religious gatherings with restricted numerical and capacity limitations that are not imposed on nonreligious gatherings. Liberty Counsel is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction from the governor’s unconstitutional COVID-19 orders.
AWMI is a Colorado nonprofit charitable corporation and religious ministry that provides Christian and biblically based conferences, seminars, events, and other religious gatherings. AWMI also has an affiliated ministry, Charis Bible College, which is a Christian college providing in-person and online biblical education courses. Charis Bible College currently has approximately 652 enrolled students, and typically has up to 200 more in regular enrollment. AWMI’s facilities at Charis Bible College can seat a total of 5,000 people since the main auditorium/sanctuary seats 3,100 individuals, and the remaining classrooms and event spaces can host 1,900 individuals.
Under the governor’s orders, AWMI may conduct nonreligious counseling, social services, and other “necessities of life” for individuals at its facilities in unlimited numbers provided only that social distancing is practiced. Over 80 “Critical Businesses” are exempt from the size limitation, including Primary-12 public, charter, and private education. However, Gov. Polis’ orders automatically subject AWMI to criminal penalties for conducting a religious worship service if there are more than 175 individuals present in the same sanctuary. As soon as a gathering transitions from a nonreligious to a religious gathering for Bible study or worship, the number must be reduced to no more than 175.
In addition, Gov. Polis allows mass gatherings of protestors throughout the state with no social distancing or other health precautions.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Governor Jared Polis has clearly discriminated against religious gatherings. The distinction between religious and nonreligious gatherings has nothing to do with health and safety. The virus does not favor one or the other. This blatant discrimination reveals that Governor Polis has an agenda disguised as health and safety. There is no pandemic pause button to the Constitution, nor is there an exception for religious gatherings.”