PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ten Oregon churches and Gov. Kate Brown’s legal team will make their arguments to the state Supreme Court on Friday as faith-based groups continue to call for allowing congregants to gather for religious services.
The high court put a stay on a ruling by a Baker County judge that voided Brown’s emergency stay-home order during the pandemic.
Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff ruled Brown erred by not seeking the Legislature’s approval to extend the stay-at-home orders beyond a 28-day limit. The Supreme Court’s ruling stays Shirtcliff’s decision pending review by all the high court justices.
And that review is Friday.
In the meantime, faith-based groups are trying to serve their members with restrictions in place.
Pastor Brian Norris of the Living Hope Church in Vancouver told KOIN 6 News they’ve started drive-in services after consulting with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. These drive-in services come complete with an elevated flatbed semitruck with a stage. Worshippers stay in their cars and tune in on a radio frequency.
“There’s a desire to get together and worship safely,” Norris. “I don’t think anyone is in a rush to get inside but there is a rush to get together even if it’s seeing your fellow congregant in the car next to you.”
The church has been approached by others to hold their services in the parking lot on other days. Several houses of worship said they do online services but it’s not the same feeling of connection.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s office canceled a press conference that was scheduled for Thursday morning, in which he was expected to discuss restarting church services along with other COVID-19 response topics.
According to Inslee’s office, they “needed more time to develop the religious guidance that was scheduled to be announced today.”