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Washington archdiocese sues over coronavirus restrictions

Washington archdiocese sues over coronavirus restrictions
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The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has sued the city, saying its continued coronavirus restrictions go beyond what is required for public safety.

The archdiocese accused the city of violating parishioners’ First Amendment rights with the continued limitations on attendance. The plaintiffs cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in November against New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Broadway to fully reopen in September Mets, Yankees to open vaccination sites to fans before games MORE’s (D) restrictions on gatherings in the Empire State.

The 50-person limit for all houses of worship, regardless of size, is “arbitrary” and “discriminatory,” the lawsuit claims, saying half of the city’s Catholic parishes have capacity to seat over 500 people.

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The city’s gathering limitations vary by activity. Youth sporting events are limited to 12 people, regardless of field, while outdoor events, regardless of size, are limited to 25 people.

However, the lawsuit states that numerous other institutions such as laundromats, retailers, gyms and libraries impose caps based on capacity rather than a flat limit.

“[T]he Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception — the largest Catholic Church in the United States — could accommodate thousands of worshippers. Indeed, the Statue of Liberty would fit inside with room to spare,” the lawsuit states. “Yet under the Mayor’s orders, all of these churches are subject to the same cap of 50 people.”

“Treating some secular activities harshly does not excuse harsh treatment of worship,” wrote Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel for Becket, the law firm representing the plaintiffs.

The archdiocese has also retained former White House counsel Don McGahn, according to the National Law Journal.

The lawsuit follows another against the city in September from a Baptist church, which drew support from 34 congressional Republicans and the Justice Department. A judge ruled in October that the church could hold outdoor services.

The Hill has reached out to D.C. Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserBowser on Manchin's DC statehood stance: He's 'not right' DC mayor defends restricting dancing at weddings amid pushback DC mayor admitted to Democratic governors group amid statehood fight MORE’s (D) office for comment.