Democratic Gov. John Carney plans to back off restrictions he imposed on church worship to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, state attorneys told a federal judge Tuesday.
Carney planned to issue new guidance regarding communities of worship either later Tuesday or Wednesday that could narrow, or even resolve, issues raised in a lawsuit challenging his restrictions as unconstitutional, attorneys said.
The lawsuit argues that houses of worship are being treated differently than other “essential” businesses in Delaware, and that they have been subjected to restrictions on religious practices — including how a baptism can be conducted — that are not neutrally and generally applicable to secular entities.
“The facts and circumstances are going to change significantly,” state solicitor Aaron Goldstein told U. S. District Judge Colm Connolly.
Goldstein did not provide further details, saying state attorneys were not controlling the timing or the final form of Carney’s new guidance.
“It has been very clear that the court believes that the present state of things, that is the present way that the state of Delaware has issued it guidance, is not neutrally applicable,” Goldstein acknowledged.
Connolly ordered Tuesday’s hearing to discuss scheduling regarding a preliminary injunction against Carney requested by Christopher Allan Bullock, a well-known New Castle County pastor and community activist. In a ruling late Friday, Connolly denied Bullock’s request for a temporary restraining order. That decision was upheld by a divided federal appeal court panel on Saturday.
But Connolly made clear in his ruling that Bullock’s claims implicate one of the nation’s most treasured constitutional rights, the right to freely exercise one’s religion, and that he would fully consider his arguments.
Connolly noted Tuesday that he could find only two mentions of “baptism” in Delaware code, one involving the use of a baptismal certificate to verify a person’s age, and the other noting that statements in a baptism certificate may be exempted from a general prohibition on hearsay evidence.
“Do you know of any other occasion in Delaware law, or in any other law in the United States, where specific procedures have been prescribed for baptism in the way they have in the guidance that was issued?” Connolly asked deputy attorney general Stephen Ferguson.
Ferguson said he did not.
Thomas Neuberger, an attorney for Bullock, noted that Carney’s often-modified coronavirus emergency declaratio… (Read more)
Author: Randall Chase
Source: Redstate Observer: DELAWARE GOVERNOR TO BACK OFF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP RESTRICTIONS