Following Lawsuit, Washington Governor Agrees Bible Study Permissible
Attorneys for Governor Inslee Acknowledge that Home-based Bible Study and Prayer Meeting is Permissible
Seattle, WA—Today, First Liberty Institute and the North Creek Law Firm represented Joshua Freed at a hearing to challenge Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s ban on religious gatherings of any size in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During that hearing, before the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, attorneys for Governor Inslee notified Joshua Freed that he may have a home Bible study on a one-on-one basis, as First Liberty Institute and the North Creek Law Firm requested over two weeks ago.
“The Governor conceded that Mr. Freed can have a one-on-one Bible study and that he will not enforce the rules against home Bible studies on a one-on-one basis,” said Hiram Sasser, Executive General Counsel at First Liberty. “The Governor’s attorneys, during the proceeding, made various statements that indicate the Governor may not take any steps to enforce any shut down orders that affect religious activities even beyond the Bible study at issue.”
“Religious community, even one-on-one Bible study, is essential to many people of faith. We are grateful that, in this challenging time for our country, Governor Inslee was willing to concede that the ban does not apply to Joshua Freed’s home Bible study,” said Mark Lamb, Owner and Founder of The North Creek Law Firm.
Mr. Freed and his wife hosted Bible studies in their home weekly for the past two and a half years. During the pandemic, Mr. Freed made efforts to conduct the Bible study via remote meetings. However, these virtual meetings are simply no substitute for in-person meetings, due to the lack of privacy and closeness, and the technical glitches frequently experienced. Instead, Mr. Freed sought to meet one-on-one with participants outdoors, with only one meeting per day, following the CDC Guidelines and with additional safeguards including social distancing of at least 6 feet between individuals, wearing personal protective equipment, including a mask and gloves, and prohibiting handshaking or physical contact.
On March 23, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-25 prohibiting spiritual gatherings of any size due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, Governor Inslee exempted a number of businesses he deemed “essential.” These include many retail, grocery, media, and even cannabis establishments.
As America re-opens and churches plan for responsibly returning to in-person meetings and services, it is more important than ever for First Liberty’s team of legal experts to be ready to put a stop to the singling out of people of faith with oppressive restrictions.
As attempts to criminalize religious gatherings are beginning to take place in states all across our nation, we know that the work we are doing to defend the First Amendment from these attacks is already making a historic impact for the future of religious freedom. And it is only through your support that we able to actively protect your right to live out your faith.