Hundreds Of North Carolina Churches Might Sue Gov. Over Stay-at-home Order

(Carolina Journal) About 400 North Carolina churches could join a lawsuit challenging Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide stay-at-home order.

Cooper, who in late March ordered North Carolinians to stay home and all non-essential businesses to close, violated the constitutions of the state and federal governments by limiting religious gatherings, said Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, who is organizing the lawsuit. He is working with three lawyers and two constitutional law centers to file the lawsuit in state and federal court. About 30 state representatives said they would support it. The lawsuit will likely be filed mid-week, the NC Insider reported Tuesday, May 5.

Kidwell wants religious protections enshrined in a new law. Saturday, he filed House Bill 1059,  which would allow churches to continue meeting during a state of emergency and allocate money for things such as masks and hand sanitizer. Co-sponsors include Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; Rep. Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba; and Rep. Kyle Hall, R-Stokes.

State and federal constitutions clearly prevent infringement on religious liberties, Kidwell said. Meanwhile, the governor’s order creates a double standard when it comes to what is open or closed. 

“The big-box stores are allowed to remain open, and it looks like it’s Christmastime in most of them,” Kidwell said. “Yet churches are not allowed to open even though they’ve been declared essential businesses.”

Churches are the only “essential” entities in the governor’s order that remain subject to the 10-person limit on gatherings, said Jon Guze, director of legal studies at the John Locke Foundation. All other businesses and operations are permitted to operate as they wish as long as they follow social-distancing guidelines.

“Singling out religious organizations for more restrictive treatment in this way is almost certainly unconstitutional,” Guze said.

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Editors note. This post was written by Brooke Conrad and published at The Carolina Journal. Title changed by PNP News.


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