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Religious Liberty Law Firm Urges Another Texas City to Alter Stay-At-Home Order to Respect Religious Liberty

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April 1, 2020

News Release
For Immediate Release: 4.1.20
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453 

Religious Liberty Law Firm Urges Another Texas City to Alter Stay-At-Home Order to Respect Religious Liberty
Policy of Frisco, Texas singles out religious gatherings in a manner inconsistent with Governor’s Executive Order

Frisco, TX—First Liberty Institute today urged city officials in Frisco, Texas to alter its mandatory stay-at-home orders to comply with Governor Abbott’s Executive Order and apply equally to churches.  Under its current order, churches are subject to limitations not applied to businesses and other entities. First Liberty represents Pastor Brandon Burden of Kingdom Life Church in Frisco.

You can read First Liberty’s letter here.

“In light of Governor Abbott’s Executive Order, which declared houses of worship as essential functions, we continue advising religious institutions to follow the CDC’s 15-day guidelines, but Frisco’s policy goes far beyond those guidelines and seems to target religious exercise,” said Mike Berry, General Counsel at First Liberty.  “Government officials must treat religious institutions equally with other comparable gatherings.  Frisco’s order not only violates the Governor’s Executive Order, but it singles out religious services with special restrictions that do not apply to others, violating their religious liberty.”

On March 27, the Mayor of the City of Frisco, Texas ordered all Frisco residents to stay at home except to perform essential activities.  The Mayor’s declaration specifically prohibits religious services except by video or teleconference and limited in-person staff providing such services to no more than ten people.

In its letter, First Liberty argues that, “We write to inform you that these restrictions violate federal and state law. The City must address the ongoing public health crisis in a way that does not discriminate against religious exercise.  Frisco’s Amended Declaration specifically targets religious services for special restrictions. As a result, the Amended Declaration uniquely handicaps churches from developing innovative ways to provide religious services consistent with social distancing guidelines. For example, some churches across the country organized drive-in services that comply with all applicable social distancing guidelines. Restricting services only to video and teleconferencing precludes such innovative solutions and weighs most heavily on places of worship lacking the expertise or technological infrastructure necessary to provide religious services by video or teleconference.”

Berry added, “We fully support protecting public health and safety, but the government doesn’t need to engage in religious discrimination to do so.  It serves no legitimate interest, it is morally wrong, and it is unconstitutional.  In fact, such discrimination is unhelpful, and it only serves to cause confusion at a time when clarity is of the utmost importance.”

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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