The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered Governor Jared Polis to respond to Andrew Wommack Ministries International (AWMI)’s emergency request for an injunction pending appeal by 5:00 p.m. MT this Sunday. The court’s order was issued barely three hours after Liberty Counsel filed the emergency motion. AWMI’s Ministers’ Conference begins Monday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m. MT.
The governor’s executive orders give preferential treatment to nonreligious gatherings over religious gatherings. However, the city of Cripple Creek, which resides in the same county (Teller County) as AWMI, reopened its 12 casinos on June 15. Three of the city’s largest casino operators say customers have returned in larger numbers than expected with a revenue increase from last year from slot machines.
Each casino pays the city a flat fee per slot machine and gaming table. Gaming device fees are the largest revenue source for the city. Those fees were waived during the casino closures. As a result, the city cut its budget by $2.2 million for 2020 due to loss of the betting device fees and related gambling taxes. Last month, Teller County officials asked the state to allow the casinos to reopen blackjack, craps, poker and roulette tables, and serve alcohol around the clock.
Teller County has favored casinos with a “wink and a nod” by allowing them to manipulate the number of people in their buildings in order to exceed the 175-person limit. Equal treatment is not offered to AWMI, which has a 3,100-seat sanctuary with a total of 5,000 seats in various rooms at its Charis Bible College campus.
Governor Jared Polis and the state and local public health departments are discriminating against religious gatherings with restricted numerical and capacity limitations that are not imposed on nonreligious gatherings.
Under the governor’s orders, AWMI may conduct nonreligious counseling, social services, “necessities of life,” and educational services for P-12 individuals at its facilities in unlimited numbers provided only that social distancing is practiced. But as soon as the gathering transitions to a religious meeting or worship, the 175-person limit applies. Moreover, nearly 100 “Critical Businesses” are exempt from the size limitation, including Primary-12 public, charter, and private education. Gov. Polis’ orders subject AWMI to “jail time and fines” for conducting a religious worship service if there are more than 175 individuals present in the same sanctuary.
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, “We are pleased the Court of Appeals is responding quickly to our emergency request for an injunction pending appeal regarding Governor Jared Polis’ unconstitutional orders. The governor gives preferential treatment to nonreligious gatherings over religious gatherings while the First Amendment gives preferential treatment to the free exercise of religion.”