Two Douglas County churches say Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders keeping their parishioners at home are unconstitutional.

Covenant Grace Church in Roseburg and the Camas Valley Christian Fellowship have joined a lawsuit asking an Oregon court to prohibit the state from enforcing the governor’s ban on group gatherings. A handful of county residents joined the suit, too, including two pastors from the Camas Valley church.

The lawsuit was filed in the Oregon Circuit Court for Baker County Wednesday.

In it, a group of churches and individuals from around the state argue that Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order declaring the COVID-19 an emergency should have expired on April 7.

They said the Oregon constitution prohibits the governor from extending an emergency declaration beyond 30 days unless she convenes the state Legislature and gets approval from three-fifths majorities in both the House and Senate, according to court documents.

And they object to subsequent orders including a stay at home order issued March 23 and a recent order extending the state of emergency to July 26.

They also said the stay-at-home order violated their First Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution to free exercise of religion including church services, weddings and funerals.

With gatherings limited to 10 people under the governor’s order, many churches have moved to online services only.

Court documents said the churches at first shared the governor’s concerns about having too many people indoors, and that it could increase the risk to the elderly.

Now, they “believe the risk is minimal, or at least has been reduced drastically,” according to court documents. And they cite the small number of coronavirus cases in many counties as evidence.

The churches are left with no idea how long it will be until the governor lets them “resume freely exercising their constitutionally protected religious rights,” they wrote, and they are at the governor’s mercy until she does.

The list of churches bringing the suit includes Elkhorn Baptist Church in Baker City, along with churches in Newberg, Lincoln City, Klamath, Salem, Bend, Medford, Lebanon and the Portland area.

Local individuals included in the lawsuit include Camas Valley Christian Fellowship pastors Ronald Rust and Travis Hunt, along with churchgoers Mason Goodknight of Roseburg and Mark and Lori Mayberry of Riddle.

They are represented by an attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute, a regional nonprofit that champions conservative causes and specializes in legal defense for religious freedom and parental rights, according to its website.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(7) comments

melrosereader

Conducting virtual services precludes passing the collection plate. Could that have something to do with the complaint?

st paddy

we do not need the spread of the coronavirus no matter how holy they get it from their money grubbing pastors

Momos

Obviously these home schooled "constitutional experts" didn't consult with Jesus Christ for guidance. Jesus would not be filing lawsuits.

Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion, so stop endangering the rest of us by misquoting the Bible, inventing your uninformed opinion of the Constitution, and wrapping yourselves in the American flag. Jesus would not approve.

Neutralcomment

It seems to me that if they want a say in policy, they should be paying taxes. Until then, we should be listening to scientists, not zealots.

Scott Mendelson

Brilliant!

Plugtuglug

This is the problem with our world - Religion seems to always want exceptions to the rules.

lmar68

Religion is not the problem-the problem is ignoring the Constitution that as elected officials (Mayors, Commissioners, and Governors) are sworn to uphold. They make up rules, regulations, and laws without legislative approval, and wield power over their constituents with no authority to do so. And the loyal subjects bow and obey the illegal commands of these ego-maniacs!

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