UPDATE: Mark Dever’s church has its legal fees covered in the latest legal victory among congregations who sued over worship service limits during lockdown.
Capitol Hill Baptist Church has settled a lawsuit with the District of Columbia over claims that its coronavirus restrictions violated the First Amendment by barring outdoor worship but permitting other outdoor activities.
According to The Washington Post, D. C. agreed last week to pay $220,000 to Capitol Hill Baptist to cover its legal fees and stated that officials “will not enforce any current or future covid-19 restrictions to prohibit CHBC from gathering as one congregation.” The settlement said it was not an admission of wrongdoing by the city.
Capitol Hill Baptist, led by 9Marks founder Mark Dever, was the first to sue over the District’s restrictions, following multiple attempts to secure a waiver from citywide restrictions, which didn’t permit church services of over 100 people, even if outside, masked, and socially distanced.
Dever’s church based its request on its belief that the Bible calls churches to gather as one assembly—not in multiple services, multiple sites, or online. During the restrictions, it crossed state lines to gather outdoors in Virginia.
“Ultimately, the church is not something we want to be in as a building,” said Dever in a clip from spring 2020. “It’s a people we want to be with. That’s why we Christians always gather, so that we can be with the people of God and do the things that Jesus has called us to do.”
The church’s legal case initially resulted an injunction allowing congregants to return to worship in October 2020, months before all capacity limits were lifted in D. C. in spring 2021.
Churches in other states have also won settlements over similar First Amendment claims. California will pay $2 million to cover …