The lawsuit asks that Gov. Carney and his successors be prevented from restricting worship in future emergency situations.
Two Delaware pastors have filed a lawsuit asking the courts to issue a permanent injunction preventing state Gov. John Carney or his successors from exercising emergency powers to restrict religious gatherings and practices.
According to The Associated Press, the same two pastors also filed a separate lawsuit asking the Delaware Court of Chancery to find that Gov. Carney’s prior coronavirus-related restrictions religious gatherings were unlawful.
Attorney Thomas S. Neuberger, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Revs. Alan Hines and David Landow, said that the authors of the Delaware state constitution knew about contemporaneous public health menaces, such as the bubonic plague, smallpox, and malaria.
Nevertheless, Neuberger believes that the Delaware constitution makes specific allowances for places of worship to operate freely—no matter the circumstances.
“We’re asking the Delaware Court of Chancery—the world-renowned Delaware business court, the ancient court of equity from England—to enjoin Gov. Carney and all future governors and order them to keep their hands off the church in any future emergency,” Neuberger said. “Regardless of any health, or other pretense that they wish to offer.”
Thomas C. Crumplar, another attorney involved in the lawsuit, told DelawareOnline that his church faced legal charges after he walked into the building at the beginning of the pandemic.
Crumplar suggested it was paradoxical that the state restricted churches, but allowed other businesses to operate normally.
“I could go to the liquor store on Sunday, and buy whatever I wanted to,” he said. “I could drink, but I couldn’t pray. That is absolutely absurd.”
Crumplar said that, in the United States, the government has absolutely no right to interfere in religious matters.
“Our final words are to the governor, Gov. Carney and all future governors, read the Constitution and therefore keep your hands off our church,” Crumplar said.
Specifically, the Delaware Constitution states that “no power shall or ought to be vested in or assumed by any magistrate that shall in any case interfere with, or in any manner control the rights of conscience, in the free exercise of religious worship, nor a preference given by law to any religious societies, denominations, or modes of worship.”
DelawareOnline notes that, two months into the pandemic, another pastor filed a lawsuit against Gov. Carney demanding that churches and other places of worship be allowed to re-open. The complaint was settled in November 2020; the agreement stipulates that places of worship will be deemed “essential” in any future emergency, and that they will not be “singled out” if coronavirus cases trend upward.
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