It Shouldn’t Require A “Theocracy” to Decide THIS Lawsuit Correctly
SEPTEMBER 27, 2020 / JACK MARSHALL
The Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the District of Columbia, is suing
Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District government for violating its First
Amendment right to worship.
“CHBC desires to gather for a physical, corporate gathering of believers
in the District of Columbia on Sunday, September 27, 2020, and on
subsequent Sundays, and would do so but for those actions of the
Defendants that are the subject of this Complaint,” the lawsuit charges.
It seems pretty clear that Bowser is applying one set of rules against
religious institutions and another set of piorities entirely when it
comes to activities she cares about. In March, Bowser (Is she the most
unethical big city mayor in the U.S.? She’s certainly in the running,
but it’s a tough field) issued an executive order prohibiting churches
from meeting indoors or out because of public health concerns related to
the pandemic. D.C.’s four-stage plan would bar in-person worship
gatherings until there is an “effective cure or vaccine” for the Wuhan
virus, a rule that can be counted on to wound, perhaps mortally, church
communities that have been built up over many decades. Right now
gatherings are supposedly limited to 100 people or up to 50 percent of
the building’s capacity, whichever is fewer. The 850-member Capitol Hill
Baptist Church has been meeting in a field in Virginia.
The 142-year-old congregation explains in its suit that “a weekly
in-person worship gathering of the entire congregation is a religious
conviction for which there is no substitute. The Church does not offer
virtual worship services, it does not utilize a multi-site model, and it
does not offer multiple Sunday morning worship services.”
The church’s covenant, to which all members must agree, pledges that
they “will not forsake the assembling of [them]selves together,” as
decreed in the Bible. The church’s website explains,
“Since its founding in 1878, CHBC has met in-person every Sunday except
for three weeks during the Spanish Flu in 1918. That changed following
Mayor Bowser’s first orders concerning COVID-19 on March 11, 2020. Since
that time, the members of CHBC—most of whom live in the District—have
been unable to meet in person, as one congregation inside District
limits (even outdoors)….CHBC has applied for multiple waivers to the
policy. District officials refuse to provide CHBC with a waiver beyond
100 persons as part of a mass gathering…A church is not a building that
can be opened and closed. A church is not an event to be watched. A
church is a community that gathers regularly and that community should
be treated fairly by the District government.”
Fairly? On June 10, the church asked for a waiver so the congregation
could meet at currently abandoned RFK Stadium, which is large enough to
permit social distancing. The mayor’s office didn’t respond to the
request and subsequent appeals until September 15, and then issued a
rejection stating that “[w]aivers for places of worship above that
expanded capacity (100 attendees) are not being granted at this time.”
Strangely, as the lawsuit points out, on June 27, 2020, the District of
Columbia considered a waiver to two local companies that had wanted to
set up an ad hoc drive-in movie theater at the same venue, RFK Stadium,
in order “to bring people together in D.C.” That waiver was granted.
But wait! There’s more!
The lawsuit correctly asserts that Bowser and the District “have been
discriminatory in their application of the ban on large scale
gatherings,” citing a June 6 appearance by the D.C. mayor before tens of
thousands of George Floyd protesters, as she declared that the crowd was
“wonderful to see.” The District’s Metropolitan Police Department also
has closed city streets “to accommodate protests and marches of
thousands to tens of thousands of people.” The mayor has also
coordinated with organizers of the Commitment March on Washington, who
are planning a five-hour demonstration on the steps of the Lincoln
Memorial for several thousand people. Museums, restaurants, and other
entertainment venues in D.C. are open. Metro services have been restored
to pre-lockdown levels.
The church’s lawsuit concludes, “Creating an exception for mass protests
and not other types of First Amendment activities is constitutionally
forbidden content-based discrimination and thus violates CHBC’s free
Of course, this is a city that paints political slogans on the streets,
but prosecutes citizens who either cover them up or paint their own.
“The First Amendment protects both mass protests and religious worship,”
the lawsuit states. “But Mayor Bowser, by her own admission, has
preferred the former over the latter. When asked why she celebrates mass
protests while houses of worship remain closed, she responded that
‘First Amendment protests and large gatherings are not the same’ because
‘in the United States of America, people can protest.’”
They also can practice their religion. This is flagrant, arrogant double
standards hostile to religion in action, and they will not stand.
Just as this lawsuit was being filed a Deranged Facebook Friend had the
chutzpah to post one of those ‘conservatives are hypocrites because they
don’t embrace the progressive agenda and Jesus would have’ memes to
waves of “likes” and “loves.” The argument is so simpleminded and
deliberately misleading that it doesn’t warrant serious discussion,
except that the hypocrisy of a group actively hostile to religion
appealing to Jesus as an authority boggles the mind.
One of the vicious talking points about to be shot at Amy Coney Barrett
is that her confirmation for the Supreme Court would point the United
States toward a theocracy, since she is a devout Catholic. But a
competent judge who never heard of religion should be able to figure out
that Mayor Bowser’s game is unconstitutional.
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