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The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and Democratic District Mayor Muriel Bowser reached a deal Tuesday in their legal wrangling over caps on church attendance.
The agreement comes a week after the archdiocese filed a lawsuit on Dec. 11 alleging that Bowser’s 50-person cap on all houses of worship, regardless of size, was unconstitutional. In response, Bowser loosened restrictions setting limits in churches to 25% of their capacity or up to 250 people, whichever is smaller.
Anthony Dick, an attorney representing the archdiocese, described the deal as a “Christmas truce,” according to The Hill. Both parties are expected to provide Judge Trevor McFadden with written version of the agreement by Wednesday. The court had been urged to act quickly in time for Christmas.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement: “While some churches may now allow up to 250 worshippers to attend services. I strongly encourage residents to continue following the guidance of medical and public health experts and help stop the spread of COVID-19: stay home whenever possible, and avoid spending time indoors with people outside your household.”
“I am proud that D.C. residents have overwhelmingly embraced science-based commonsense measures to protect our personal safety and that of our neighbors. By wearing masks, frequently washing our hands, and limiting contact with others, the District has maintained a lower COVID-19 case rate than many states — though we have recently seen cases rising,” Racine also said, according to The Washington Post.
“It is my hope that District residents will continue to support and keep each other safe through this difficult and unprecedented time, and that we have a peaceful, healthy, and safe holiday season,” he added.
Bowser has clashed before with people of faith in the District. In September, Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) sued her for capping even outdoor services at 100 people, claiming a violation of the First and Fifth Amendments, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The suit also pointed out that while churches were forbidden to gather outside, Bowser herself expressed support and even participated in mass protests where tens of thousands gathered.
The court ultimately ruled in favor of CHBC, and Bowser’s administration eventually backed off from outdoor restrictions on churches altogether. The Daily Wire reported:
A federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) on Friday, a prominent evangelical congregation in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C., that recently sued the District’s Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“It is for the church, not the District or this court, to define for itself the meaning of ‘not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,’” wrote Trump-appointed Judge Trevor McFadden, referencing a verse in the Book of Hebrews that commands Christians to gather together for worship.
According to the ruling, CHBC is allowed to resume outdoor gatherings with certain precautions.
As The Daily Wire reported, CHBC filed a lawsuit last month against Bowser in U.S. District Court alleging that the District government is showing preferential treatment in how it enforces the repeatedly extended lockdown orders.