Legacy Church sues state after governor includes churches in mass gatherings ban | KOB 4

Legacy Church sues state after governor includes churches in mass gatherings ban

Nathan O'Neal
Created: April 13, 2020 06:03 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Legacy Church filed a federal lawsuit against the state after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expanded her ban on mass gatherings to include places of worship.

For weeks, churches across the state have transitioned their services online, including Legacy Church.

“We had considered trying to do a live service, but we're going back to what we've been doing which is online services, so we've got a robust program,” said Legacy Church Pastor Barry Bitzer, just days before the Easter weekend.

The governor expanded the ban Saturday. Some state lawmakers said the ban expansion did not give churches an adequate heads up.

“The late Saturday afternoon shot at the churches across New Mexico was horribly timed and poorly delivered,” said Minority Leader Rep. James Townsend (R-District 54).

The order limits gatherings of five or more people, but Legacy Church said the ban is a violation of its First Amendment rights.

According to court documents, Legacy Church had “approximately thirty people inside its building on Easter Sunday,” which included a worship team, band and technical staff.

Church officials said they plan to operate in the same fashion moving forward.

The governor’s office released a statement that pointed out other churches that are operating within the governor’s safety order.

"There are countless congregations already live streaming services for their congregations, doing so within the public health and safety boundaries of the expanded public health order, which the governor applauds and encourages,” the statement read in part.

A federal judge set an injunction hearing for Thursday morning, but court records suggest that a compromise could be in the works.

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