The nation’s capital is being sued ahead of Christmas by the Archdiocese of Washington over the city’s coronavirus restrictions.
The lawsuit argues that since Mass resumed in June, people have been able to worship in a safe, responsible way and has led to no known coronavirus outbreaks linked to the religious ceremony.
But the lawsuit states that D.C.’s new attendance limits, imposed near the end of November, violate the First Amendment and religious freedom rights of the 650,000 Catholics in Washington and its suburbs.
The lawsuit claims the city’s cap on attendance is discriminatory and singles out religious institutions, claiming that libraries, restaurants, nail salons and retail stores, among others, don’t have the type of stringent capacity limits that religious places of worship have.
D.C. imposed new restrictions after coronavirus cases steadily increased. Only 50 attendees can attend worship services, no matter the size of the room.
The lawsuit claims half of the city’s Catholic parishes can seat more than 500 people. St. Matthew’s Cathedral and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception can accommodate 1,000 and more.
The lawsuit cites the Diocese of Brooklyn, which identified occupancy-based limits as a less restrictive means of protecting public safety, and says that D.C.’s numeric cap is unfair to the religious community.
The Archdiocese filed the lawsuit ahead of the upcoming holiday, asking for less restrictive rules, such as percentage-based limits, rather than a 50-person cap, to be put in place ahead of Christmas so they have enough time to plan for worshippers to attend mass safely.