Mayor Joseph Curtatone is requiring all places of worship to limit attendance to no more than 10 congregants, despite Gov. Charlie Baker's May 18 order allowing churches to open at 40 percent capacity if they follow health and safety guidelines.
First Liberty Institute, the nation's largest religious liberty law firm, and the Massachusetts Family Institute, a conservative nonprofit, sent a letter Wednesday to the mayor on behalf of four area churches: Christian Fellowship of Boston, International Church, Safe House Baptist Church and Igreja Comunidade Batista Shalom Internacional.
“Mayor Curtatone’s restrictions on churches would prevent even Jesus and the 12 disciples from lawfully gathering in Somerville,” Jeremy Dys, special counsel for litigation and communications for First Liberty Institute, told Fox News in a statement.
“If thousands of people can peacefully protest in the streets under the First Amendment, certainly churches are able to safely resume in-person religious gatherings."
Curtatone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Baker's order states that no city or local authority should enforce stricter regulations than the state.
“It is time for government officials to stop these discriminatory orders that single out churches,” Andrew Beckwith of the Massachusetts Family Institute said. “Churches in Massachusetts are vital to our communities and just want to be treated with respect and fairness.”
In a four-page plan, churches represented by Dys' letter outlined the guidelines they will follow when they open in defiance of Curtatone's restrictions Sunday. Those include meeting with less than 40 percent of maximum capacity, requiring face masks, and distancing of at least 6 feet from others.
On May 22, President Trump declared churches "essential" and said he would override governors who wouldn't allow houses of worship to reopen.
"It’s clear that Christians across America are ready to get back to in-person worship in a safe atmosphere, and it’s time for our nation’s churches to reopen," Robert Jeffress, pastor of 14,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, wrote in an opinion piece for Fox News.