Christian church wins settlement over coronavirus restrictions on worship

By | October 21, 2021

When the church filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri during May 2020, the county’s coronavirus restrictions limited church services to no more than 10 people, while stores, restaurants and bars did not have numerical limitations, but rather percentage-based limits, generally 10-25% of capacity.
The church argued that the rules went against both the First Amendment and the Missouri Constitution. 
“If Abundant Life were to engage in retail sales, or served food and liquor as a bar, rather than religious worship at its Lee’s Summit location, Jackson County’s Phase I plan would allow 474 people in the building at a time while meeting or exceeding the CDC’s guidelines,” the lawsuit claims. 
Dan Tarwater, one of the six county legislators who approved the settlement with the church, told the Kansas City Star that they believed they were “going to lose” the case unless they approved the settlement. Equal halves of the settlement will be paid by the county and by University Health, formerly known as Truman Medical Centers, which operates the county health department. 
The Supreme Court had ruled in late November 2020 that New York state restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic constituted a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of free religious exercise. After the ruling the Bishop of Brooklyn, whose diocese was a plaintiff in the suit, said that religious worship should be considered an essential during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state’s restrictions at the time forbade the attendance of more than 10 people at religious services in state designated “red zones”, and 25 people in “orange zones.”

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