Court Upholds Maine's Ban on In-Person Worship Services Amid Pandemic

Gov. Janet Mills’ ban on in-person worship services has been upheld by a federal judge who ruled that the restriction doesn’t violate the First Amendment.

Gov. Janet Mills speaks during a new conference on the novel coronavirus, March 12, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Calvary Chapel in Orrington had challenged the ban in court, arguing the ban on gatherings of 10 people or more violated religious freedom. The church’s lawsuit sought to block the law so in-person Sunday services could resume.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen ruled Saturday that the temporary ban on in-person services was constitutional and that lifting it now would not be in the public interest. The ruling is in keeping with rulings in similar cases elsewhere in the country.

State officials had noted that religious groups may still hold drive-in and online services, and that the Maine Council of Churches had encouraged its members to avoid in-person services.

Calvary Chapel plans to appeal the ruling.

Maine reported 28 new cases and no additional deaths on Sunday, bringing the state’s total to more than 1,400 cases and 64 deaths.

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