Maine Church Asks Supreme Court to Relax Pandemic Restrictions

February 15, 2021 Updated: February 15, 2021

A Maine church is asking the Supreme Court to put Maine Gov. Janet Mills’s strict pandemic-related restrictions on places of worship on hold while it appeals an unfavorable ruling from a lower court, arguing the high court has already forced some lower courts to comply with its recent rulings loosening such restrictions.

The emergency application in the case, known as Calvary Chapel of Bangor v. Mills, asks the high court to stop the Democratic governor’s clampdown on churches, which the church’s lawyers describe as “the most severe restrictions in the nation on places of worship,” and would deal with a Dec. 22, 2020, ruling against the church by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

“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,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of public interest law firm Liberty Counsel, said in a statement.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled against these unconstitutional worship bans and Governor Janet Mills has continued to discriminate against churches and places of worship. The Governor’s unconstitutional actions must end.”

Calvary Chapel is suffering additional hardship because the operational restrictions on the church have an adverse effect on its 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 law firm states.

Epoch Times Photo
Maine Gov. Janet Mills in 2019. (Rebecca Hammel/U.S. Senate/Public Domain)

“The year-long residential program operates two homes with 24 women and 24 men for a total of 48 full-time residents 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.”

After the Supreme Court struck down limits on church attendance and found that total bans on worship were unconstitutional in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom and Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom, “Maine now has the dubious distinction of imposing the most severe restrictions in the nation on places of worship with its 50-person numerical cap notwithstanding the size of the facility,” according to First Liberty.

The Supreme Court ruled in November 2020 in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo and Agudath Israel v. Cuomo that New York’s 10- and 25-person numerical caps discriminated against houses of worship.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote at the time, “There is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that open liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”

Despite the Supreme Court’s “clear admonitions and instructions in several previous appeals … the Governor continues to impose discriminatory restrictions on religious worship services that are not imposed on similar nonreligious gatherings,” the application states.

“Her discriminatory reign of terror must end.”

The Supreme Court has issued several orders forcing lower courts to comply with its rulings on pandemic-related worship restrictions.

For example, on Feb. 8, the high court granted a California worshipper’s emergency application asking for the state’s far-reaching restrictions on in-person religious services to be rolled back.

The ruling, in the case known as Gish v. Newsom, came after applicants filed an emergency application for an injunction a month ago. Wendy Gish, one of the four worshippers who brought the application, attends Shield of Faith Family Church in San Bernardino County, The Epoch Times previously reported.

The decision overruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, instructing that Gish’s case be returned to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California “for further consideration in light of” the Supreme Court’s South Bay United Pentecostal Church ruling, which held that California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions violated First Amendment-protected freedom of worship guarantees.

Mills couldn’t be immediately reached by The Epoch Times for comment.