Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has eased restrictions on worship from 50 people to 25% capacity, up to 250 people. The new limitations will take effect Thursday, wtop.com reported.
The restrictions were eased after the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. filed a lawsuit stating that there were no coronavirus cases that could be traced back to those who were worshipping in churches, and that people can worship safely while following safety guidelines such as social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands and coughing and sneezing in your elbow. The archdiocese also claimed the restrictions were a violation of the First Amendment rights of 650,000 Catholics in the D.C. area.
The lawsuit claimed the city’s cap on attendance is discriminatory and singles out religious institutions, claiming that libraries, restaurants, nail salons and retail stores, among others, don’t have the type of stringent capacity limits that religious places of worship have.
The lawsuit also claimed half of the city’s Catholic parishes can seat more than 500 people. St. Matthew’s Cathedral and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception can accommodate more than 1,000 people.
The lawsuit cited the Diocese of Brooklyn’s similar lawsuit, which identified occupancy-based limits as a less restrictive means of protecting public safety.
D.C. city officials said the archdiocese’s lawsuit “flies in the face of all scientific and medical advice and will doubtlessly put parishioners in harm’s way.”
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