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Church Politics

D.C. Baptist Church Wins Lawsuit Over COVID-19 Worship Restrictions

A Baptist church in Washington, D.C. has reached a $220,000 settlement with the District of Columbia and Mayor Muriel Bowser in a civil case filed over the District’s restrictions on gatherings at places of worship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The church argued that meeting together is “what makes a church a church.” It filed the lawsuit in September 2020, seeking the ability to hold masked and socially distanced outdoor church services. In October, the United States Court for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction enjoining the D.C. government from prohibiting such a gathering.

In the settlement, the District agreed not to enforce any current or future restrictions on Capitol Hill Baptist Church gatherings and to pay the church’s legal fees.

“All Capitol Hill Baptist Church ever asked is for equal treatment under the law so they could meet together safely as a church,” said Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel for First Liberty Institute, which represented the church along with WilmerHale LLP. 

“The church is relieved and grateful that this ordeal is behind them. Government officials need to know that illegal restrictions on First Amendment rights are intolerable and costly,” Sasser added.

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm that defends religious freedom.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.