After a judge found that the state of Nevada discriminated against churches in the application of their COVID-19 lockdown measures, the Nevada Board of Examiners unanimously agreed to pay the legal fees incurred by a church that had brought the lawsuit forward.
Last week, the board approved a request from the Office of the Attorney General to pay a $175,000 tort claim to Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, The Christian Post reports, which chief Susan Brown explained was “to comply with the consent decree in this case that requires the state of Nevada to pay a reasonable attorney fees,” and that the “cost will come out of the tort claim fund.”
In May 2020, the church filed a lawsuit against the state which argued that Governor Steve Sisolak had singled out churches for restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In one example CP notes, while businesses and gyms were required to limit their capacity to 50%, churches were limited to just 50 people in attendance no matter how large the building was.
A District Court judge sided with the state in June 2020, arguing that the church had failed to prove it was being discriminated against, and in July, the U.S. Supreme Court also sided with the state, allowing its restrictions against churches to stand.
In December, however, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with the church, determining as one judge wrote in his opinion that they had “demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of its Free Exercise claim.”
“It has also established that the occupancy limitations contained in the Directive — if enforced— will cause irreparable harm, and that the issuance of an injunction is in the public interest,” Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote.
“Accordingly, we reverse the district court, instruct the district court to employ strict scrutiny review to its analysis of the Directive, and preliminarily enjoin the State from imposing attendance limitations on in-person services in houses of worship that are less favorable than 25% of the fire-code capacity,” he also said.
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