Advance Notice: Briefs

Lawsuit claiming Whitmer’s order violates religious freedom put on hold

By: - May 11, 2020 2:09 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Last week, a group of churches filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but now they have paused their action following the governor’s latest stay-home order extension.

The group of churches and religious leaders, including Stanley Chatfield, father of state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), alleged that Whitmer’s previous executive orders to stop the spread of COVID-19 bar Michiganders from gathering at church to worship.

On Thursday, Whitmer announced an extension of the stay-home order until May 28, and included an exemption for places of religious worship and individuals participating in services from penalties attached to the order. 

AG: Whitmer’s emergency orders are enforceable

“Consistent with prior guidance, neither a place of religious worship nor its owner is subject to penalty under section 20 of this order for allowing religious worship at such place,” the executive order said. “No individual is subject to penalty under section 20 of this order for engaging in or traveling to engage in religious worship at a place of religious worship, or for violating section 15(a) of this order.”

According to reporting from the Detroit News, the group now believes the specifics added to the executive order meet many of their concerns. However, Great Lakes Justice Center, the law firm representing the group, plans to file amicus briefs in other lawsuits challenging the governor’s executive orders.

Representatives from Great Lakes Justice Center were not available to comment at the time of publication. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.