SALEM, Ore. – A Baker County Circuit Court judge has ruled against Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order banning religious gatherings of more than 25 people.
Judge Matthew Shirtcliff issued a preliminary injunction against the executive order, calling it null and void because there is no set time period for it to end. He said the governor exceeded her powers by not getting approval from the state legislature to extend her orders beyond 28 days.
The suit was brought by 10 churches across the state, including one in Roseburg.
Ray Hacke, the attorney representing the churches' case, said the ruling affects every order Brown has issued since the emergency declaration.
“In her orders they never even reflect that she paid attention to the constitution,” Hacke said. “I don't know whether if that was based on ignorance on her part or whether it was deliberate.”
Brown is appealing the ruling to the Oregon Supreme Court today.
The following statement was issued by Brown’s office:
“From the beginning of this pandemic, I have taken action to protect the health and safety of all Oregonians. We acted quickly and decisively at the beginning of the outbreak, using the best science and data available, to protect Oregon from COVID-19.
“Today’s ruling from the Baker County Circuit Court will be appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court within hours to keep my emergency orders in effect. This will ensure we can continue to safeguard the health of all Oregonians — including frontline health care workers, those living in nursing homes, workers in agriculture and food processing plants, and Oregonians with underlying health conditions –– while the legal process moves forward.
“The science behind these executive orders hasn’t changed one bit. Ongoing physical distancing, staying home as much as possible, and wearing face coverings will save lives across Oregon.
“Together Oregonians have turned the tide on the spread of COVID-19, allowing us to only now begin the process of gradually and safely reopening parts of our communities and our economies. Reopening the state too quickly, and without ongoing physical distancing, will jeopardize public health and cost lives.
“It is irresponsible to dismiss the health risks and science behind our measures to stop COVID-19. We would be faced with the prospect of another mass outbreak without the tools that have proven to be effective in protecting our friends, families, neighbors, and loved ones from this disease.”