Maryland lawmaker to appeal Hogan case on coronavirus restrictions

A state lawmaker in Maryland said he hopes that a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling will help him when he appeals his lawsuit against Gov. Larry Hogan’s coronavirus restrictions.

The Frederick News Post reported that state Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick, and Carroll) along with other plaintiffs, including many Maryland-based religious leaders, will appeal a recent court decision.

Cox’s lawsuit argues that restrictions put in place by Hogan, who is also a Republican, infringe on the individual liberties of Marylanders — namely their First Amendment right for peaceful assembly and to exercise their religion.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake dismissed the lawsuit on Nov. 18, concluding that Hogan was “exercising the powers given to him by the legislature in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, has made reasonable choices informed, if not dictated by, such data, science, and advice.”

Judge Blake concluded that Cox and other plaintiffs minimized the risks of the coronavirus pandemic and cited “no contrary scientific authority,” as well.

But a recent Supreme Court decision has encouraged Cox to appeal the case.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote on Wednesday, found similar coronavirus restrictions in the state of New York to be unconstitutional. In an unsigned opinion the court said New York’s restrictions “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.”

“Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty,” the opinion said.

Cox said he hopes the recent ruling will change the status of his lawsuit. He had already planned to appeal, but after the Supreme Court ruling he is more encouraged.

“The tide has turned both in exposing false narratives surrounding COVID-19 and even more importantly the misuse of the Constitution. The Constitution stands regardless of emergency — indeed that is why we have a Constitution, to ensure our liberties remain at all times,” Cox wrote in an email sent to The Frederick News Post.

Cox and other plaintiffs have appealed the decision with the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals.

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