Calvary Chapel of Bangor filed an emergency injunction to the First Circuit Court of Appeals pending an appeal regarding the lawsuit against Governor Janet Mills’ unconstitutional orders that discriminate against churches and prohibit in-person and drive-in worship services. Under the governor’s orders, no religious gatherings are permitted, including parking lot services.
Gov. Mills said that churches will only be allowed to meet in small numbers when she is satisfied with the “metrics,” and when that happens, she will require churches to apply to re-open. Approved churches will then need to display a “badge” at the front door signifying they are approved to open. However, Gov. Mills has no process in place now to begin the approval process and no application for the churches. Even the notion that churches would have to apply to re-open and display a “badge” signifying approval is offensive to the First Amendment.
Gov. Mills has allowed so-called “essential” commercial and non-religious entities that include liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, warehouse clubs, “big box” and “supercenter” stores to accommodate gatherings of people without threat of criminal sanctions. People may gather in these venues but not in churches. The governor’s orders also allow people to gather in secular or commercial parking lots, but not in church parking lots and listen to the pastor.
The Maine State Police, acting under the direction of Governor Mills’ orders, have publicly declared that they would enforce the orders and have threatened to impose criminal sanctions on those found in violation of them, including any gathering for worship, regardless of whether the church meets or exceeds the state social distancing and hygiene guidelines. The criminal penalty is up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for violating her executive orders.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Governor Janet Mills prohibits any religious gatherings, including parking lot services, while allowing many secular gatherings. At some point in the future, Governor Mills’ plan calls for churches to apply for approval to re-open and prominently display a badge on the building. This is offensive to the First Amendment. There is no pandemic pause button on the Constitution.”