Church sues St. Louis County saying limits on capacity are unconstitutional

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FENTON, Mo. – A new lawsuit filed today accuses St. Louis County of violating churches and churchgoers’ constitutional rights. Right now churches in St. Louis County are not allowed to fill their houses of worship. That’s under the current St. Louis County executive order. Attorney and Missouri Representative David Gregory says it’s a violation of the first amendment. He filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fenton based Church of the Word.

St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page said in a press conference this morning that religious services may continue with 25 percent of capacity, according to to the building’s fire code. Page says that he hears that many places will continue to stream their services.

“St. Louis County is restricting church gatherings to 25 percent capacity of people, while at the same time, giving 100% capacity to all other non-fundamental rights locations like hardware stores, Home Depot and storage units,” said Missouri Representative David Gregory.

Church of the Word Pastor Matthew Sheffer says some things can be done through electronic media, but not the most important things.

“When you do media you can’t have face-to-face interactions. This is important. We’re hindered. We’re evangelists. We can’t even invite people to church,” said Church of the Word Pastor Matthew Sheffer.

Attorneys David Gregory and Henry Elster want the order deemed unconstitutional. They believe the court will take the lawsuit up this week or by next week. They feel the decision will allow all St. Louis County churches the same rights as those hardware stores.

“I would say, while we understand there are emergency circumstances, and elected leaders need to make decisions, there are certain lines in the sand they can’t cross in some of the rights protected by the first amendment are essential,” said Henry Elster.

Gregory says St. Louis County has not given a date for churches to open in full capacity and that needs to change.

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