Calvary Chapel of Bangor v. Mills, Governor of the State of Maine, No. 1:20-cv-00156-NT (D. Maine).
Calvary Chapel Church of Bangor, Maine has challenged pandemic-related capacity restrictions on church attendance since shortly after the state imposed those restrictions nearly a year ago.
The church believes that Maine’s are now the most restrictive assembly limitations in the nation.
Following an appeal to the First Circuit and remand to the federal district court in Maine, Calvary Chapel now argues that recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court and the federal circuit courts of appeals compel the issuance of an injunction against the governor’s restrictions on church attendance.
The church asserts that the state’s pandemic related imposition of limits on church assembly, where similar limits are not imposed on secular entities and activities, unlawfully discriminates against Calvary Chapel of Bangor, in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Moreover, the state’s restrictions impermissibly interfere with the church’s management of its own affairs and, as the restrictions preclude participation in religious services, they violate the Establishment Clause.
Calvary Chapel of Bangor differs from other congregations that have engaged in challenges to pandemic-related measures. Calvary Chapel not only serves as a church for community congregants, but also operates a residential program for persons seeking to renew their lives and recover from life-limiting conditions through, among other things, participation in religious assembly.
The pastor of Calvary Chapel of Bangor notes that not only is assembly commanded by scripture, but also that greater fervor is commanded during times of trouble
The pastor submits that because almost 50 residents are always in place at the residential program, when those residents are called to church services, then community congregants cannot attend, as the gathering would exceed the Governor’s order’s limits.
Conversely, if congregants were permitted to attend services, the residents would be precluded from doing so. Such a choice diminishes the dignity of all and undermines the effect of the residential treatment program, which envisions full acceptance within the larger community after completion of the program.
The pastor states he finds himself in an untenable situation, as he must choose between violating the law, which has criminal penalties, and violating his beliefs and obligations as minister.
The pastor points out that this choice is an impossible one, and is particularly troubling in a nation founded on principles of freedom of religious worship.
The governor of Maine’s response to the newly filed motion for injunctive relief has not yet been submitted, nor is there any date for hearing established
What follows are links to the Calvary Church brief and the pastor’s declaration and copies of opinions considering challenges to restrictions on Church attendance during the pandemic.
Here are links to Calvary Church’s recent submission to the court:
And here are links to recent opinions: