A church in Colorado is applying to the Supreme Court for an exemption from COVID restrictions in the Centennial State, arguing that churches are treated less favorably than other institutions under the rules.
High Plains Harvest Church and its pastor, Mark Hotaling, are seeking a motion to limit the prayer houses to 50 under Governor Jared Polis and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment under Jill Hunsaker Ryan, pending review of the appeal.
“The attempt by the state to justify discriminating between churches for secular use is that churches are somehow uniquely risky environments for the spread of COVID-19,” the petition reads. “But the data is deeply at odds with the state’s position.”
Based on geography, the petition goes to Judge Neil Gorsuch, who may decide to act alone in the case or refer him to the full court.
Gorsuch asked Colorado officials for a response Friday, Dec. 9, Wednesday.
COURT OF JUSTICE RULES OF THE COURT AGAINST THE RESTRICTIONS OF CUOMO CORONAVIRUS – BARRETT PLAYS MAIN
In his opinion next to the Catholic Dioceses of Brooklyn last week against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on coronavirus in areas striking new cases, Gorsuch chose firm words to protect religious freedom under the First Amendment.
“The government should not ignore the first amendment in times of crisis,” he wrote in a unanimous opinion. “This amendment at least prohibits government officials from treating religious practices less favorably than similar secular activities unless they pursue a compelling interest and use the least restrictive means available. Yet recently, during the COVID epidemic, some states are ignoring these long-established principles. “
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States need to keep these principles in mind when developing precautions for the coronavirus, he said.
“While the pandemic poses a number of serious challenges, there is no world where the Constitution tolerates color-coded implementing regulations that reopen liquor stores and bicycle shops, but shuttered churches, synagogues and mosques,” he wrote.
Fox News Bill Mears and Shannon Bream contributed to this report.