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On Monday, an Oregon judge jettisoned coronavirus restrictions imposed by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, reasoning Brown had not asked the Oregon legislature whether they approved of Brown’s orders extending for more than 28 days.
The decision from Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff, who was appointed to be a judge by Brown last fall, came after a lawsuit was filed by 10 churches challenging Brown’s state’s social-distancing orders. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs wrote that Brown had “exceeded her constitutional authority,” that after declaring a public health emergency, she could only exercise her emergency powers for 30 days. The lawsuit argued that if Brown wanted to extend her emergency powers, she had to obtain approval from three-fifths of both houses of the legislature before the 30-day period had expired. Because she hadn’t done so, they argued, her original executive order on March 8 declaring a public health emergency expired on April 7.
Attorney Ray D. Hacke, who filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, said, “If we’re risking our lives to go to church, if we survive. great. If we die, then we’re going to heaven. If we want to take that risk, then it’s on us.,” as Oregon Live reported.
Brown, who declared a statewide state of emergency on March 8, reacted to the decision on Monday by stating she would immediately seek an emergency review by the Oregon Supreme Court. She said, “The science behind these executive orders hasn’t changed one bit. Ongoing physical distancing, staying home as much as possible, and wearing face coverings will save lives across Oregon.”
The Associated Press (AP) reported, “In a seven-page opinion, Shirtcliff wrote that the damage to Oregonians and their livelihood was greater than the dangers presented by the coronavirus. He also noted that other businesses deemed essential, such as grocery stores, had been allowed to remain open even with large numbers of people present and have relied on masks, social distancing and other measures to protect the public.” Shirtcliff wrote, “The governor’s orders are not required for public safety when plaintiffs can continue to utilize social distancing and safety protocols at larger gatherings involving spiritual worship,”
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum responded to the ruling by saying, “We will argue that the judge erred in his construction of the relevant statutes and that he abused his discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction. We will also be asking for an immediate stay of his order,” AP reported.
Hacke countered, “Praise God. I’m excited, and I’m glad that the judge saw that there are limitations on the governor’s power, even in the midst of emergencies. If people want to get their haircut, they can. They can leave their home for any reason whether it’s deemed essential in the eye of the state or not.”
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