Religious groups are standing up to the anti-Constitutional orders of Oregon governor Kate Brown. They filed an injunctive relief lawsuit against the state, seeking to reopen their churches in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown orders.
A group of Oregon churches and individuals, including as lead plaintiff the Elkhorn Baptist Church in Baker City, is suing Gov. Kate Brown claiming her executive orders imposing restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic are unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs filed the suit in Baker County Circuit Court on Wednesday.
They are represented by attorney Ray D. Hacke of the Pacific Justice Institute in Salem. Hacke said the Institute is a nonprofit law firm that defends religious liberty. It opened its Salem office about 2 years ago.
The plaintiffs are asking for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the governor from enforcing the executive orders.
Hacke said Thursday afternoon that he also filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent the governor from imposing terms of the executive order, including the prohibition on gatherings of people if participants can’t maintain social distancing.
Although religious freedom is an aspect of the lawsuit, Hacke said the chief legal issue is the governor’s authority under the Oregon Constitution.
In the lawsuit he cites the section of the Constitution — Article X-A — that authorizes the governor to declare a state of emergency due to a public health crisis.
Hacke said the plaintiffs don’t dispute that Brown has such authority due to the pandemic. The governor declared the state of emergency on March 8.
But Hacke points to a section in Article X-A which states that the governor’s emergency powers can extend for no more than 30 days unless the Legislature, on at least a three-fifths vote of both the House and the Senate, agrees to extend the governor’s emergency powers.
Even wackjob leftist writer Tess Riski, for Willamette Week, reported this from a fair perspective:
The churches—located in cities ranging from Portland to Lincoln City—argue that Brown only had authority to extend her executive order 30 days, and that her executive powers expired April 7. The Baker City Herald first reported the lawsuit today.
“Plaintiffs have been irreparably harmed every day beyond April 7, 2020, the date on which the state of emergency declared in Executive Order 20-03 ceased to exist by law,” the complaint says. “Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law beyond injunctive relief prohibiting defendant GOVERNOR from enforcing Executive Order 20-12 and any other orders that may impinge on Plaintiffs’ constitutionally protected religious freedoms.”
The plaintiffs include Elkhorn Baptist Church in Baker City, Calvary Chapel in Newberg, Cavalry Chapel in Lincoln City, Calvary Chapel in Southeast Portland, New Horizon Christian Fellowship in Klamath Falls, Camas Valley Christian Fellowship, Peoples Church in Salem, Bend Community Church, Prepare the Way in Bend and Covenant Grace Church in Roseburg.
In addition, 20 individual religious leaders and congregants signed on as plaintiffs, including Brian Nicholson, the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian, James Thwing, a pastor at Lake Bible Church in Lake Oswego, Mark Russell, a leadership member at Cavalry Chapel in Lebanon, Ronald Rust, a pastor at Camas Valley Christian Fellowship, and Micah Agnew, the pastor of an unnamed church in Wallowa.
The churches ask the court to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the governor from enforcing the stay-home order against churches.
There are only two judges in Baker County, one of whom, Matt Shirtcliff, was appointed by governor Brown just year.