Monday, December 14, 2020

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC Sues over Government Restrictions on Christmas Masses - FULL TEXT



 The Becket Law Organization for Religious Liberty and the Archdiocese of Washington DC announced that they are working to have restrictions lifted before Christmas DC; since the government implemented a 50 person cap on Mass attendance in the District.
Here is the Complaint filed officially with the Court in DC: 
1. From the start of the pandemic, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington
(“Archdiocese of Washington”) has worked with the District of Columbia to protect
public health, including by voluntarily suspending public Masses in March. Since
Mass resumed in June, the Archdiocese has demonstrated that people can worship
God in a safe, responsible, and cooperative way. This has led to an exemplary safety
record: thousands of Masses, with zero known COVID outbreaks linked to the Mass.
Case 1:20-cv-03625 Document 1 Filed 12/11/20 Page 1 of 31
2
2. Yet as Christmas fast approaches, the District has imposed arbitrary 50-
person caps on Mass attendance—even for masked, socially-distant services, and
even when those services are held in churches that can in normal times host over a
thousand people.
3. These restrictions are unscientific, in that they bear no relation to either the
size of the building or the safety of the activity.
4. These restrictions are discriminatory, in that they single out religious worship
as a disfavored activity, even though it has been proven safer than many other activities the District favors.
5. Indeed, if the Archdiocese were to fill its churches with library books, washing
machines, exercise bikes, restaurant tables, or shopping stalls instead of pews, the
District would allow many more people to enter and remain for an unlimited amount
of time. That is because for public libraries, laundromats, retail stores, restaurants,
tattoo parlors, nail salons, fitness centers, and many other establishments, the District imposes capacity-based limits, rather than hard caps. For example, there is no
hard cap on the number of people who can dine indoors in restaurants, where alcohol
is commonly served and patrons do not wear masks during meals.
6. Half of the Archdiocese’s churches in the District can accommodate 500 or more
worshippers. St. Matthew’s Cathedral can accommodate 1,000 worshippers. And the
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception—the largest Catholic
Church in the United States—could accommodate thousands of worshippers. Indeed,
the Statue of Liberty would fit inside with room to spare. Yet under the Mayor’s orders, all of these churches are subject to the same cap of 50 people. 
7. These arbitrary restrictions violate the rights of more than 650,000 D.C.-area Catholics, who—at the end of this most difficult year—now face the chilling prospect of being told that there is no room for them at the Church this Christmas. 
8. But the Supreme Court recently ruled that in-person worship must be given equal treatment. In Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, No. 20A87, 2020 WL 6948354 (Nov. 25, 2020), the Court explained that hard caps on the number of worshippers “effectively bar[] many from attending religious services” and that “many other less restrictive rules . . . could be adopted,” including the percentage based limits the District uses elsewhere. Id. at *2, *3. 
9. That should have been reason enough for the District to abandon its illegal treatment of safe and responsible worship. But since the District has refused and Christmas is coming, the Archdiocese now has no choice but to seek judicial relief. 
10.Under both the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the District’s arbitrary, unscientific, and discriminatory treatment of religious worship is illegal. Particularly after Diocese of Brooklyn identified occupancy-based limits as a less restrictive means of protecting public health than numeric caps, the District’s hard caps on numbers of worshippers cannot withstand scrutiny. 
11.The Archdiocese therefore seeks an injunction that allows them sufficient time before Christmas Eve to allow the Archdiocese to plan and celebrate Mass in accordance with percentage-based limits rather than a 50-person cap. The Constitution, federal law, and common sense require no less. 
12.Christmas should be a time for reconciliation and joy, and the Archdiocese simply wants to welcome its flock home. It respectfully requests that it be allowed to do so. 

No comments: