Washington Governor Jay Inslee revised the stay-at-home order that forbids religious gathering of any size in response to the COVID-19 pandemic after one man sued the State last month.
On March 23, Governor Inslee issued a stay-at-home order that required every Washingtonian to stay at home except for essential business. Bible gathering wasn't recognized as essential and proclamation 20-25 prohibited spiritual gatherings of any size due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
First Liberty Institute and the North Creek Law Firm represented Joshua Freed at a hearing to challenge Washington Governor Jay Inslee's ban. 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.
For the previous two times, Governor Inslee refused to respond to requests seeking a one-on-one Bible study exemption, and finally, his lawyers yielded in open court.
"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.
Freed and his wife have hosted Bible studies in their home weekly for the past two and a half years. And they made an effort to host virtual remote Bible studies, but privacy issues and technical glitches held them back. With this amendment, they are now able to hold one-on-one Bible studies.
Mr. Freed will only have one Bible study per day and follow guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention with additional safety. This includes wearing protective equipment, including a mask and gloves, and prohibiting handshaking or physical contact.