The Justice Department has sided with Capitol Hill Baptist Church in its lawsuit against the DC government and Mayor Muriel Bowser. The church argues that DC’s ban on outdoor church services is a clear violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
The church’s attorneys from First Liberty Institute say the government is under a high burden of proof that any intrusion on First Amendment rights must be to advance a compelling government interest, such as public safety. But by banning outdoor church services while allowing, and even endorsing and participating in, much larger protest gatherings, the Mayor and DC officials are clearly discriminating against people of faith while allowing exceptions for those they agree with. That’s not how the First Amendment works, and the DOJ agrees.
In announcing the DOJ’s stance on the case, the head of the Civil Rights Division said this:
“The right to free exercise of religion and the right to protest are both enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. We are a nation dedicated to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. The District of Columbia has, unfortunately, neglected these rights. The Justice Department is committed to defending both of these fundamental freedoms and in supporting all Americans’ rights to worship as they choose.”
There are more good quotes at the link, so read the whole thing. This is such an open-and-shut case of unconstitutional and illegal targeting by government officials, with even the Justice Department siding with the target, that I assume the only hope of DC prevailing in court would be if it lands in front of Judge Emmet Sullivan.