The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit filed by a Maine church seeking to block the state from imposing new COVID-19 restrictions on religious services.
Justice Stephen Breyer rejected the church’s motion for an injunction without comment, per the high court’s practice.
Lawyers for the church argued that any restrictions aimed at preventing spread of the virus that curtailed religious worship would violate parishioners’ constitutional and statutory rights.
“No pastor, church, or parishioner in America should have to choose between worship and criminal sanction flowing from demonstrably discriminatory restrictions,” lawyers for the Florida-based Liberty Council, which represented the church, wrote in the 53-page complaint.
Bans on public gatherings to prevent spread of the virus have fueled confrontations in Maine and elsewhere between religious leaders and local and state officials.
To be sure, Mills hasn’t set new restrictions on gatherings and hasn’t indicated that she plans to do so yet amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the state.
But the plaintiffs argued that concerns about the highly contagious strain of the virus could lead to new “government lockdowns” and urged the high court to expedite its ruling.
“Although Gov. Mills suspended the worst of her unconstitutional orders on May 24, 2021, her own public health officials’ statements are raising concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus and its potential to impact Maine,” the church’s lawyers wrote.
Earlier this week, the Mills administration recommended that everyone wear a mask when in public indoor settings in regions of the state with “substantial” or “high” levels of COVID-19 transmission, regardless of their vaccination status.
The move was based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now says face coverings should be worn inside schools and in high transmission areas, regardless of vaccination status.
Maine will also require masks for all K-12 teachers, staff, students and school visitors, regardless of vaccination status, based on the federal recommendations.
Calvary Chapel filed a similar lawsuit against pandemic restrictions in May 2020 after Mills took steps to limit the size of gatherings to 10 people.
The church quested an injunction against the restrictions, which was denied.
This article was originally posted on U.S. Supreme Court declines to take up Maine church’s lawsuit over COVID restrictions