RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A man from southwest Virginia filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday claiming the governor’s executive orders limiting gatherings of more than 10 people has had “a chilling effect” on his right to religious freedom.

The suit, filed by Larry Hughes in Russell County, argues Northam’s order violates the Virginia Constitution’s guarantee of the enjoyment of life and liberty. Hughes’ suit also claims Executive Order 55 violates the constitution’s guarantee that people are the source of power in the commonwealth, that laws may not be suspended without the people’s consent and the guarantee of the the free exercise of religion.

The complaint from Hughes, who is described as a professing Christian who regularly attends religious services in the suit, states that Northam’s executive order has left a chilling effect on his right to religious freedom in regards to the 10-person limit.

Hughes’ suit argues Virginia cannot mandate the limit “when so many other secular activities are permitted conditioned only on complying with social distancing guidelines.” The lawsuit calls on a temporary restraining order to be issued, until the case can be heard, ahead of Easter Sunday.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring defended Northam’s executive orders Tuesday in an attached brief that asked for Hughes’ request for an injunction to be denied. Russell Circuit Court Judge Michael Moore will hear the case Thursday by phone, the attorney general’s office said.

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