A US Court has struck down Washington DC’s COVID-19 pandemic limits on attendance at houses of worship which had been set at the lesser of 25% capacity or 250 worshippers.
One church alone in the District can seat 6,000.
The ruling by Judge Trevor N. McFadden was effective immediately.
The Archdiocese of Washington welcomed the ruling saying it enables the diocese “to make the sacraments more fully available to our faithful in time for Holy Week, Easter and beyond”.
“In our Catholic churches, we will continue to abide by our own safety protocols of social distancing, masking, cleaning and other safety precautions to ensure safe access to worship while we also continue to broadcast our worship services online.”
In his ruling, McFadden wrote that the District’s capacity restrictions “discriminate against houses of worship” and that “the District’s restrictions substantially burden the archdiocese’s religious exercise.”
He said the court “finds the 250-person cap particularly troubling” a limit that does not apply to big box stores, supermarkets, and other essential businesses.
“It does not appear that this restriction was narrowly tailored to stem the tide of the virus. As the District’s order shows, it was designed simply to ensure ‘parity’ between houses of worship and restaurants,” McFadden said.
The District also admitted during oral arguments that “there have been no reported outbreaks from attendance at the archdiocese’s Masses,” the judge said.