Denver, Colo., Oct 1, 2020 / 11:01 am
A federal judge on Tuesday denied an injunction sought by a Protestant ministry against Colorado's coronavirus health orders, which limit religious gatherings to 175 persons.
Christine Arguello, a judge of the US District Court for the District of Colorado, wrote Sept. 29 that “numerous courts have considered, and persuasively rejected,” arguments similar to those made by the plaintiff, Andrew Wommack Ministries, and that the suit was thus unlikely to succeed.
“Plaintiff seeks to enjoin public health laws in order to allow it to gather a large group of people during a pandemic. Granting such an injunction would present a high risk of harm to the state of Colorado as well as the public generally,” Arguello concluded.
She added that “The state has the responsibility to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 virus, which is made more difficult when case numbers increase. The relief Plaintiff requests has the potential to increase case numbers significantly, placing a high burden on the state. Further, Plaintiff would be compromising the health of the public, which could cause the death of an untold number of innocent citizens.”
Liberty Counsel, which is representing the ministry, immediately appealed the ruling.
Matt Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, commented that “The virus does not discriminate between nonreligious and religious gatherings, but Gov. Jared Polis does. There is no constitutional justification to treat nonreligious gatherings better than religious gatherings. The First Amendment gives preferential treatment to the free exercise of religion. We look forward to presenting arguments to the Court of Appeals.”
Andrew Wommack Ministries was seeking relief to hold a conference meant to start Oct. 5 in Woodland Park, in Teller County about 20 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, and expected to gather at least 600 persons.
A conference held by the group at the beginning of July was linked to a Covid-19 outbreak. The outbreak consists of 24 staff who have tested positive, and 16 attendees. One attendee died, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.