Capitol Hill Baptist gets court order to resume worship

The COVID-19 restriction placed on churches is gradually being lifted. One of the affected churches, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, has been permitted to resume worship in Washington, DC. This decision was made possible with a recent court order.

The US Court for the District of Columbia gave this declaration last Friday, permitting the church to gather. However, social distancing must be observed. It will be recalled that the church had filed a law suit in September after they were denied permission to resume gathering by the DC Mayors office. According to the church, this decision tampered on its First Amendment rights.

In the courts decision, it stated that worshiping online alone is not enough, considering the fact that the church has freedom of worship as their belief is genuine.

According to the judge, Trevor M. McFadden, the substantial burden inquiry asks whether the government has substantially burdened religious exercise not whether [the Church] is able to engage in other forms of religious exercise.

The judge also added it is not the Districts decision to determine which pattern of worship is suitable for the church. The church has the right to its religious beliefs and the right to gather for the same purpose.

Capitol Hill Baptist church had filed the suit in June, alongside another Baptist church in Virginia. This injunction has propelled it to move to an outdoor venue where its members reside.

Pastor Justin Sok, in a statement released on Saturday, said: A church is not a building that can be opened or closed. A church is not an event to be watched. A church is a community that gathers regularly, and we are thankful that such communities are once again being treated fairly by our government.

Capitol Hill Baptist has gotten a good number of backings from US Senators and the Department of Justice officials in the suit. Furthermore, the judge quoted Hebrews 10:25 upon his judgment. He admitted that the meaning of not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together is for the church to define; not the District or this court.

Although this court order is only in favor of Capitol Hill Baptist church, the church is hopeful other churches would be allowed to join them in reopening physical service. Capitol Hill Baptist had a potent case which is backed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Originally, Mark Devers Capitol Hill Baptist church made it public to sue the District of Washington DC in what it tagged Forsake not the Assembling on September 24. This was due to the restrictions placed on the church as a means of curbing the further spread of coronavirus. However, there have been a series of public gatherings. Hence, the church did not see why it should be further locked. Hence, they had to file the suit.

This decision to file a suit was spearheaded by Mark Devers who is also the founder of 9Marks church network. Capitol Hill Baptist has a congregation of 1000 persons. The suit was in accordance with the need for equal treatment by the law. More so, the suit was tied to the fact that the church works with the direction of not forsaking the assembly of the saints.

Although some churches chose to do online services for its members, Dever declined. He preferred that his congregation gathered physically. In his words, gathering as one church in a single worship service is an essential component of Capitol Hill Baptists exercise of religion.

Although the precautions limit of the District placed indoor and outdoor gatherings at 100 people or half of a buildings capacity, non-religious groups have been going beyond the limit. The rallies which have been going on so far in the United States is a notable example. 

Hence, religious bodies cannot be segregated from the freedom of gatherings while other bodies are allowed to gather. The First Amendment Act which protects both masses and religious worship must be put into use. The result of the court order has been lauded by some persons. The church is free to exhibit its right in a democracy. With this order, many churches are expected to also seek for the same right. Capitol Hill Baptist has set an example for other churches to follow.

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