Court Rules Oregon’s Stay-At-Home Order Ruled Too Restrictive Over Churches

( Another day, another coronavirus-related challenge won in its day in court.
Oregon’s restrictions on religious gatherings were declared “null and void” by a county judge Monday. The reasoning behind the decision was that the emergency order issued by Governor Kate Brown had expired.
A preliminary injunction was granted to the 10 churches who sued Brown over the restrictions that prevented them from holding religious services. That was done by Matthew Shirtcliff, a circuit judge in Baker County, Oregon.
In his ruling, Shirtcliff wrote:
“This court understands that the current pandemic creates an unprecedented crisis in our state as well as this country. The Governor has an enormous responsibility to protect the lives of the citizens of our state balanced against the citizens’ constitutional rights to freedom of religion which includes how he or she chooses to worship.
“The Governor’s orders are not required for public safety when Plaintiffs can continue to utilize social distancing and safety protocols at large gatherings involving spiritual worship, just as grocery stores and businesses deemed essential by the Governor have been authorized to do.”
The judge ruled that churches successful showed they suffered “irreparable harm” from the governor’s restrictions. Further, he said legislative approval would be required to extend social-distancing measures beyond the original 28-day emergency order Brown issued.
Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, said Brown plans to appeal the Baker County ruling to the state’s Supreme Court.
In a statement, Rosenblum said she believes the ruling to be “legally incorrect” and will ask for an immediate stay of the ruling. She added:
“We will argue that the judge erred in his construction of the relevant statutes and that he abused his discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction.”
To date, there have been more than 3,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Oregon, with 137 people dying from COVID-19.
That puts Oregon on the far lower end of cases compared to some places such as New York, which has almost 100 times as many confirmed coronavirus cases as Oregon.
Still, the governor put in restrictions on life in the state as a measure to stop the potential spread of the virus. Oregon is, after all, sandwiched between Washington (which had the first reported case) and California (which has currently has the fifth most cases on record).
Oregon’s case marks the second high-profile court overruling of a state’s stay-at-home order.
Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the state’s stay-at-home order was unconstitutional, since the governor didn’t have the ability to issue two of these emergency orders back-to-back. That ruling immediately invalidated the order, and allowed people to roam free where they wanted and allowed businesses of all kinds to open.
In the days following the decision, bars and restaurants were packed with customers, and life seemed to go on as normal without any concern for contracting or spreading coronavirus.
One business in the state took it a step further by banning the wearing of masks in buildings. Annie’s Campground said masks “are viewed as a robbery in progress and will be handled that way.”