News Release: Court Declares Governor of Oregon’s Emergency Orders Unconstitutional and “Null & Void” Effective Immediately
Huge win for churches, ministries, businesses and the people of the great state of Oregon!
Bend, OR – Prepare the Way Ministries and Bend Community Church, along with churches, businesses and individuals across Oregon, applaud the decision out of the Baker County Circuit Court today declaring that Governor Kate Brown violated the Oregon Constitution in her emergency declarations and authoritarian executive orders. The Judge ruled that churches, businesses and individuals have been irreparably harmed by Gov. Brown’s unconstitutional orders. It is time that the free exercise of religion be respected and pastors across the state of Oregon be allowed to safely meet.
The decision was given at 11:45 AM, Monday May 18, when Judge Matthew Shirtcliff of the Baker County Circuit Court definitively declared Gov. Brown’s emergency orders as unconstitutional. He said that all of her executive orders regarding the emergency declarations are “Null and Void” effective immediately.
The case was argued Thursday, May 14 and Ray Hacke of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) and Kevin Mannix did an excellent job of presenting the clear facts of the case. The case was filed on May 6th in Baker County, Oregon, and has two key complaints. The first argues that Gov. Kate Brown overstepped her authority according to the Oregon Constitution, which says that the Governor must get approval from the legislature to extend a state of emergency beyond 30 days. Article 10 A of the Oregon Constitution requires the Governor get a 3/5th approval of the entire Legislature to extend any declared emergency beyond 30 days. Gov. Brown extended the current state of emergency until July 6 without approval from the Oregon Legislature. By doing so, she did not let state representatives from all over Oregon serve their constituents by voting on such measures. These measures have had a vastly negative affect not only churches, but also on businesses, private schools and many other organizations and individuals.
The second part of the complaint asserts that her actions violate churches’ rights under the Constitution to free exercise of religion. Many churches and ministries have been effectively shut down by this unconstitutional order, even though many counties east of the Cascades have not had any cases of COVID-19. Gov. Brown’s lawyers are attempting to claim that this complaint doesn’t apply, as she has allowed many counties to enter Phase 1 of the reopening process. However, Phase 1 still bans all gatherings larger than 25 with criminal prosecution; 97% of churches in Oregon are larger than that. She has continued her emergency declaration until at least July 6th, and if a vaccine or cure is not found, indefinitely.
Stephen Williams has been interviewed on this case and has said, “We live in a Constitutional republic… you can’t throw out the Constitution just because someone declares an emergency.” On the subject of the role of churches in our communities, Stephen said, “How can Lowes and Home Depot, not to mention liquor stores and pot shops, be deemed “essential” by Gov. Kate Brown during this COVID-19 pandemic, but churches are not? We applaud the decision of Governors DeSantis and Abbott of Florida and Texas in declaring Churches essential. Likewise, we affirm the dozen or so states that have made similar statements. Gov. Brown has usurped power she was never intended to have and through emergency declarations, become more of an authoritarian ruler instead of a Constitutionally-bound public servant.” Stephen Williams was an attendee when the case was argued at the Baker County Circuit Court and listened to all the arguments. He said, “I was shocked by Gov. Brown’s lawyers, Beatty-Walters and Abrams, who asserted that the Governor has NO limits to her power during a state of emergency. They used phrases like, ‘limitless power,’ ‘no limits,’ ‘nothing limits,’ total authority,’ ‘complete power,’ over a dozen times. What makes our country great is the fact that we have a Constitutional Republic that acknowledges we are one nation under God, not a socialistic authoritarian regime where one leader has unlimited power.
During this time, when fear, isolation and hopelessness are so prevalent, churches have an essential message of hope, healing and restoration, and pastors should be given the respect and responsibility to decide how best to safely gather. Working with hundreds of churches across the Pacific Northwest, Stephen has noticed that almost all the pastors he works with just want to be treated as partners in the reopening efforts and allowed to decide how best to safely meet. Churches have a Biblical mandate to “not forsake meeting together” and to “shepherd the flock.” Generally, pastors have been patiently working within these restrictive guidelines pursuing creative ways to try to stay connected, but it is time to consider churches as essential. Pastors are brainstorming how they can meet safely. Also, we renounce all hateful ways of responding and will always endeavor to speak the truth in love. Stephen and his family have been surprised by the level of hatred targeted at him, his family, and ministries. He says, “In a region and state which prides itself on tolerance and inclusion, it is shocking how hateful some people are in voicing near death threats at a pastor for simply speaking the truth in love and standing up for the principals which made this nation great.”