Thursday, December 17, 2020

DC Archdiocese Seeks Liberalized Capacity Rules For Its Churches

Last week, the Catholic Diocese of Washington, D.C. sued in federal district court challenging D.C.'s COVID-related 50-person cap on religious gatherings.  It seeks, instead, percentage-based limits similar to those imposed on numerous commercial establishments. The complaint (full text) in Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Bowser, (D DC, filed 12/11/2020), alleges that half of the churches in the Archdiocese can accommodate 500 or more worshippers, and the largest can accommodate thousands. It contends that the current limits violate its 1st and 14th Amendment rights. The complaint declares:

 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.

Catholic News Service reports on the lawsuit.

UPDATE: In order to resolve the litigation, D.C.'s Mayor on Dec. 16 issued modified rules (full text of Mayor's Order) that allow houses of worship to admit up to 25% of their capacity, not to exceed 250 persons, for worship services. Other events or programs at churches are limited to 10 persons indoors or 25 outdoors. Other safety protocols are also required for religious services. Washington Post reports on the new Order.