Churches sue over emergency declaration

Calvary Chapel in Lincoln City is one of eight churches throughout Oregon suing Gov. Kate Brown over her executive orders, claiming the governor’s declared emergency should have expired April 7. (Photo by Kenneth Lipp)

OREGON — Calvary Chapel in Lincoln City joined churches around Oregon in a lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown over her “stay home” order and ban on mass gatherings.

The suit, filed May 6 in Baker County Circuit Court in eastern Oregon, where co-plaintiff Elkhorn Baptist Church is located, alleges that Brown did the plaintiffs “irreparable harm” by preventing them from meeting for the past month under the terms of her executive orders issued to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eight churches are joined by a dozen pastors and congregants, including Calvary’s pastor, Phil Magnan, in a complaint that claims the governor’s initial 60-day declaration of emergency was invalid, as was the recent extension to July 6, because the Oregon Constitution requires convening the legislature to extend a state of emergency beyond 30 days. The suit alleges the plaintiffs’ constitutional liberty was infringed every day past April 7, 30 days after the declared emergency March 8.

Ray Hacke, attorney for the plaintiffs, said he acknowledged that for her orders, Brown was relying on Oregon Revised Statute 401.165, which also outlines emergency powers but has no prescribed time frame. But Hacke argued the law does not allow her to circumvent Article X of the Oregon Constitution. The constitution’s text does include a 30-day sunset provision for an emergency if it is not extended by a three-fifths vote of the legislature.

The suit seeks injunctive relief preventing Brown from enforcing her order, as well as attorney’s fees. Plaintiffs have requested a temporary restraining order to provide that relief while the suit is pending, and a hearing on their request is scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday, May 14. The churches say they have so far abided by the order despite their challenge of its validity.

A call to Calvary’s Lincoln City telephone number was not answered, and the News-Times received no response to emails to the church and the governor’s office for comment.

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