Word of Faith Christian Center Church v. Gretchen Whitmer
UPDATE: Within 24 hours after the GLJC filed suit against Governor Whitmer, she amended her executive order which now permits all churches to reopen.
PRESS RELEASE: Churches First Amendment Rights Restored Synagogues, Mosques, and Churches now Free to Reopen
Lansing, Michigan – The Great Lakes Justice Center (GLJC), on behalf of a number of Michigan churches and individuals, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in Grand Rapids on May 6, 2020, against Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The suit challenged the Governor’s illegal and unlawful Executive Orders (EO) issued since April 30, 2020.
It alleged various constitutional and statutory violations committed by Governor Whitmer. Plaintiffs’ requested a declaratory judgment to vindicate their rights and injunctive relief to allow them to safely reopen their churches for services.
In response to the lawsuit, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a new EO 2020-77 on May 7, 2020, that agreed with the relief requested by GLJC. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and all places of religious worship may now open without threat of penalty or criminal prosecution. Individuals may attend such services with no threat of penalty or criminal prosecution. The specific language added to EO 2020-77 (paragraphs 16 and 17) states:
“No individual is subject to penalty under section 20 of this order for engaging in or traveling to engage in religious worship at a place of religious worship … nothing in this order shall be taken to abridge protections guaranteed by the state or federal constitution under these emergency circumstances.”
Given this new language in the EO, the relief requested by Plaintiffs is no longer needed, as the Governor has acquiesced to the fact that churches and all faiths have a First Amendment right to freely assemble and freely exercise their religious beliefs. If the Governor abides by her words, this lawsuit is no longer necessary. This does not mean, however, that GLJC believes her EOs are valid, legal and binding. Many of the constitutional and statutory violations as stated in our Complaint are still present. There are numerous other pending cases addressing those issues, and GLJC will be involved in those lawsuits through amicus briefs.
David A. Kallman, Senior Counsel with the GLJC, stated, “Churches are essential to the health and well-being of everyone. The Governor now appears to recognize this fact and will not attempt to prohibit people of all religious faiths to meet and freely exercise their religious beliefs. Places of worship can operate responsibly and safely using CDC guidelines and protocols.” Professor William Wagner, President of GLJC said, “Today, we take a small step toward returning to constitutional governance in the state of Michigan.”
The Original Post is below:
The GLJC has filed suit on behalf of numerous individuals and churches against Governor Gretchen Whitmer regarding her unlawful COVID-19 Executive Orders.
The Complaint alleges 1st Amendment, Due Process & Separation of Powers violations.
Full Case Name: Word of Faith Christian Center Church, et al. v. Gretchen Whitmer
File No.: 20-392
Court: United States District Court – Western District of Michigan
Great Lakes Justice Center Role: Plaintiffs’ Attorney
Date: May 6, 2020
As first reported on the Steve Gruber Radio Show, the Great Lakes Justice Center (GLJC), on behalf of a number of Michigan churches and individuals, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in Grand Rapids today against Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The suit challenges the Governor’s illegal and unlawful Executive Orders (EO) issued since April 30, 2020. She now attempts to enforce these EOs as having the force and effect of law and threatens anyone in noncompliance with criminal charges and fines.
The complaint alleges:
- Violation of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to Free Exercise of Religion.
- Violation of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to Free Expression and Association.
- Violation of Plaintiffs’ Constitutional Due Process Rights.
- Violation of the Constitutional requirement for Separation of Powers.
- Violation of the Constitutional Guarantee of a republican form of government.
- The Michigan Emergency Powers laws are unconstitutional.
Plaintiffs argue in their brief:
Just because a governor has ink in her pen does not mean the Constitution authorizes her to use it, notwithstanding good intentions. The Constitution does not become irrelevant during any emergency, including a pandemic. Instead of every citizen being subject to the rule of law, they have become subjects of Defendant’s daily edicts. (page 22 of brief).
Nothing in the U.S. Constitution authorizes a state governor to suspend constitutional representative governance by declaring new emergencies every 28 days into perpetuity. Allowing one person to wield absolute power is not a republican form of government, it is tyranny. (p. 20).
David A. Kallman, Senior Counsel with the GLJC, stated, “Churches are essential to the health and well-being of everyone. If Walmart and Home Depot can open and sell goods to customers while following CDC guidelines, surely churches can do the same.”