The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and Archbishop Waltin Gregory are suing D.C. Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser and the capital city for imposing “arbitrary” COVID-19 restrictions on churches, preventing Catholics from gathering for worship just weeks before Christmas.
“Christmas should be a time for reconciliation and joy, and the Archdiocese simply wants to welcome its flock home,” the suit states.
“For Catholics, the Mass is not only a gathering of people, but an action of the gathered people together with Christ,” it continues. “The celebration of Mass … is the center of the whole of Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually. For in it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father, adoring him through Christ, the Son of God, in the Holy Spirit.'”
The lawsuit, which the archdiocese filed on late Friday, declares that Bowser’s most recent DC restrictions imposing a 50-person capacity cap on worshippers at services is unconstitutional and “discriminatory, in that they single out religious worship.”
“These arbitrary restrictions violate the rights of more than 650,000 D.C.-area Catholics, who—at the end of this most difficult year—now face the chilling prospect of being told that there is no room for them at the Church this Christmas,” the lawsuit states.
The suit also notes that the restrictions foisted by the city on churches have prevented charitable “acts of mercy, including education, social services, and health care” which serve the communities around them, even though people have safely gathered for Mass and other services since June and have “an exemplary safety record: zero known COVID outbreaks linked to the Mass.”
Citing the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, which barred the state of New York from imposing strict and arbitrary attendance limits on religious services during the pandemic, the archdiocese claims that Bowser’s orders are “unscientific” and “illegal”
“Under both the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the District’s arbitrary, unscientific, and discriminatory treatment of religious worship is illegal,” the lawsuit continues.