On September 14th, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that Governor Tom Wolf’s COVID-19-related orders that forced some businesses to close and prohibited large public gatherings are unconstitutional.
The Fourth Circuit is the first federal appellate court to find parts of the law unconstitutionally overbroad under the First Amendment. The ruling could impact Attorney General William P. Barr’s plan to use the law to prosecute individuals accused of inciting riots during the demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota, along with law firm Fish & Richardson, has filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of four protesters against the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Police Chief, the head of the police officer’s union, and others.
“By banning protests generally, and denying Givens’ permit specifically, Defendants have deprived Givens of the opportunity for airing his grievances against the government, including the State’s failure to conduct timely background checks for those wishing to purchase a gun and restrictions on speech activities,” the complaint argues.
The suit contends that religious groups should be allowed to gather in person “regardless of the number of participants,” if they agree to “adequate social distancing.”
A group of residents in New Hampshire sued their government following limitations on large gatherings meant to slow the spread of coronavirus. Civil liberties experts explain why these restrictions, even when they affect political or religious gatherings, are likely to be upheld in court.