Today, Liberty Counsel filed an emergency injunction pending disposition of its cert petition at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Calvary Chapel of Bangor against Maine Governor Janet Mills. Liberty Counsel is requesting the High Court to block the discriminatory restrictions on churches. Maine now has the dubious distinction of imposing the most severe restrictions on churches and places of worship.
The emergency injunction was necessitated this week by Governor Mills who requested her second 30-day extension to respond to the petition for cert. Gov. Mills is trying to kick the can down the road to get past the Court’s term so that no ruling would occur until late September. The emergency injunction pending the petition for cert is requesting immediate relief from the Supreme Court. The High Court has already granted relief for churches at least ten times, two of which involved Liberty Counsel’s case of Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry.
The discrimination is clear because Gov. Mills allows churches to hold secular gatherings to feed, shelter, and to provide social services and counsel to an unlimited number of people. But religious gatherings have been banned and now are limited to no more than 50 people despite the size of the building. The governor has allowed many commercial and nonreligious gatherings without restrictions or threat of criminal sanctions.
This week, a California District Court approved Liberty Counsel’s settlement on behalf of Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry against California Gov. Gavin Newsom. This is the first statewide permanent injunction in the country against COVID restrictions on churches and places of worship. Under the court-ordered statewide permanent injunction, all California churches and places of worship may hold worship without discriminatory restrictions. In that case, California has also been ordered to pay $1,350,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.
That means Maine now has the most severe restrictions in the nation on places of worship with its 50-person numerical cap notwithstanding the size of the facility.
Ken Graves is the founding and senior pastor of Calvary Chapel of Bangor. The church also has the Calvary Residential Discipleship program, a biblical-based ministry that helps men and women who are seeking a way of escape from drugs, alcohol, and other life-controlling issues. The year-long residential program operates two homes with 24 women and 24 men for a total of 48 full-time resident on the church property. C.R.D. is a Christ-centered alternative to secular programs within the drug and alcohol community and includes a work program, daily Bible studies, devotional readings and prayer. Regular attendance at church services is paramount to this program.
The lower courts have not taken seriously the irreparable harm caused by Gov. Mills’ unconstitutional COVID restrictions on houses of worship. When Calvary Chapel of Bangor filed its lawsuit in May 2020, the governor’s orders permitted no religious gatherings, including parking lot services, and violations carried criminal penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Calvary Chapel of Bangor and all houses of worship have special protections under the First Amendment and cannot be unequally treated or relegated to second class status. The Supreme Court has already ruled against these unconstitutional worship bans, but Governor Janet Mills continues to discriminate against churches and places of worship. We are asking the Supreme Court to immediately end the most severe restrictions in the country on churches and places of worship.”