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DC Archbishop sues Mayor Muriel Bowser for ‘arbitrary, unscientific and discriminatory’ restrictions ahead of Christmas


Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF

  • D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory filed a lawsuit Friday evening against D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, accusing the Democrat of “arbitrary” and “discriminatory” restrictions on churches ahead of Christmas.
  • Represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington requested an injunction allowing “sufficient time before Christmas Eve to allow the Archdiocese to plan and celebrate Mass with percentage-based limits rather than a 50-person cap.”
  • “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 said. 

D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory filed a lawsuit Friday evening against D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser accusing the Democrat of “arbitrary” and “discriminatory” restrictions on churches ahead of Christmas.

“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 said.

Represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington requested an injunction allowing “sufficient time before Christmas Eve to allow the Archdiocese to plan and celebrate Mass with percentage-based limits rather than a 50-person cap.”

“As Christmas fast approaches, the District has imposed arbitrary 50-person caps on Mass attendance—even for masked, socially-distant services, and even when those services are held in churches that can in normal times host over a thousand people,” the lawsuit said, noting that the District imposes capacity-based limits on libraries, laundromats, retail stores, fitness centers and other establishments.

Gregory pointed out in the lawsuit that Bowser’s restrictions are unscientific since they “bear no relation to either the size of the building or the safety of the activity,” as well as discriminatory since they “single out religious worship as a disfavored activity, even though it has been proven safer than many other activities the District favors.”

The lawsuit also said that half of the Archdiocese of Washington’s churches can accommodate 500 or more worshippers: St. Matthew’s Cathedral fits over 1,000 worshippers and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is the largest Catholic Church in the United States, can hold thousands of the faithful, according to the lawsuit.

“Indeed, the Statue of Liberty would fit inside with room to spare,” the lawsuit said. “Yet under the Mayor’s orders, all of these churches are subject to the same cap of 50 people.”

“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 suit continued.

Bowser’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Several religious freedom cases have come before the Supreme Court this year. Religious organizations in New York most recently took Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the Supreme Court over his restrictions on houses of worship, accusing Cuomo of “targeting Orthodox practices.”

Four of the conservative justices sided with religious organizations in the 5-4 ruling the night before Thanksgiving, while Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices.

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Founded by Tucker Carlson, a 25-year veteran of print and broadcast media, and Neil Patel, former chief policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, The Daily Caller News Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit providing original investigative reporting from a team of professional reporters that operates for the public benefit.

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