CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side has learned a church on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is appealing a court’s decision to dismiss its lawsuit against Gov. Ralph Northam.
The lawsuit was filed over the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders.
On February 4, the Lighthouse Fellowship Church appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit court.
Lighthouse Fellowship Church in Chincoteague initially filed the lawsuit back in April of 2020 asking a federal court to prevent Northam and “his designees” from “unconstitutionally enforcing and applying the various” executive orders against the church.
The lawsuit relates to the governor’s executive orders since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Virginia. Some have closed schools, prevented some non-essential businesses from operating, and ordered Virginians to stay at home except for essential business.
In the motion, the church was critical of the order, saying it prevented them from gathering regardless of whether Lighthouse Fellowship Church met or exceeded social distancing, enhanced sanitation, and hygiene guidelines, but still allowed other commercial businesses — liquor stores, “big box” and “supercenter” stores — to operate under those same guidelines.
A federal court dismissed the case following a request from Gov. Northam. Court documents stated that the church failed to present any other state statute, constitutional provision,
or Virginia Supreme Court case establishing that the Commonwealth waives immunity from suit in federal court for alleged violations of the Virginia Religious Freedom Act.
The court also found that Northam is immune under the Eleventh Amendment to the plaintiff’s state statutory and state constitutional claims.
Stay with WAVY News 10 for updates on this case.