Bowser eases limits on DC religious gatherings after Catholic Church lawsuit

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser eased attendance caps for religious gatherings Wednesday after the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington sued the mayor over attendance limits introduced amid the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

The modification gets rid of the 50-person limit for religious gatherings put in place last month and allows places of worship to reach 25% capacity, up to a maximum of 250 worshipers.

Bowser’s alteration to the November restrictions will go into effect 12:01 a.m. Thursday — nearly a week before Christmas.

The Church’s complaint, filed last Friday, argued that since June people have worshiped safely and that there haven’t been any known coronavirus outbreaks linked to their religious ceremonies.

Further, it argued the November restrictions violated the First Amendment and religious freedom right of the 650,000 Catholics in the D.C. area.

Despite the city’s rollback of religious gathering attendance limits, D.C. officials disagree with the church’s complaint.

Within the Mayor’s order to modify restrictions, city officials said, the Church’s lawsuit “flies in the face of all scientific and medical advice and will doubtlessly put parishioners in harm’s way.”

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Luke Garrett

Luke Garrett is a D.C. native dedicated to journalism. He is a reporter and the creator, host and producer of the original WTOP podcast, “DMV Download.” The podcast debuted in 2022. On the show, Garrett takes a weekly look at the biggest stories and ideas in the D.C. region.

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