After banning Bible studies and any other spiritual gathering during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., has reversed course due to a lawsuit filed by First Liberty Institute on behalf of Joshua Freed.
On May 1, The Daily Citizen covered the original story that Gov. Inslee had issued Proclamation 20-25 which banned Bible studies in the state while keeping open grocery stores, retail outlets, media establishments and marijuana dispensaries because they were deemed “essential.”
Joshua Freed, a Republican candidate for Washington Governor, had been holding Bible studies in his home for over two years. The order by Gov. Inslee would have prohibited him from continuing to do so even if the meetings were held with less than 10 people. Proclamation 20-25 banned any spiritual gathering of any size during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to First Liberty, Freed then requested an accommodation to hold one-on-one Bible studies outdoors, with only one meeting per day while following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, maintaining social distancing of 6 feet, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and prohibiting physical contact.
In order to protect his right to hold Bible studies during the pandemic, First Liberty partnered with Mark Lamb, owner and founder of The North Creek Law Firm, to bring a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
On May 11, in a hearing before a federal district court, lawyers for Gov. Inslee notified Freed’s legal team that Proclamation 20-25 did not apply to him, and that he may continue to hold Bibles studies in his home.
It’s unclear whether other citizens in the state of Washington may also hold Bible studies and similar religious gatherings in their home, or whether the concession applies only to Freed.
“The Governor conceded that Mr. Freed can have a one-on-one Bible study and that he will not enforce the rules against home Bible studies on a one-on-one basis, said Hiram Sasser, Executive General Counsel at First Liberty Institute, in a statement. “The Governor’s attorneys, during the proceeding, made various statements that indicate the Governor may not take any steps to enforce any shut down orders that affect religious activities even beyond the Bible study at issue.”
“Religious community, even one-on-one Bible study, is essential to many people of faith,” said Lamb in a statement on the case’s development. “We are grateful that, in this challenging time for our country, Gov. Inslee was willing to concede that the ban does not apply to Joshua Freed’s home Bible study.”
The case is Joshua Freed v. Jay Inslee.
You can follow this author on Twitter @MettlerZachary