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Law firm to governor: Tell local governments to allow drive-up worship

The Brillion News

MADISON – The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a public interest law firm and think tank, is asking Governor Tony Evers to stop local government officials who are using his “Safer at Home” emergency order as justification to ban drive-up religious services.

WILL asked for the governor to respond to its request by 2 p.m. today (Thursday, April 9). WILL said it wants to see Good Friday and Easter services in drive-up format take place.

Calumet County, citing the governor’s Emergency Order #12, said on April 8 that drive-up religious services in parking lots were banned.

Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church in Brillion had planned on holding such a service on Easter Sunday.

WILL said the governor never intended to ban such parking lot services when he issued the Safer at Home order.

“We understand the Governor’s responsibility to facilitate the safety of all Wisconsinites in the midst of this pandemic. But we cannot lose our heads,” the letter from WILL President Rick Esenberg to the governor said. “And state and local actors cannot use the occasion of a ublic health issue to run roughshod over the right to the free exercise of religion while permitting activities that are functionally equivalent from a public health and safety perspective.”

WILL said it is not challenging the governor’s emergency order, just the way that some local officials are using it to ban drive-up religious services – where people do not violate social distancing guidelines.

“A ‘drive-in’ service in which congregants remain in their cars and practice social distancing is permitted under the terms of Executive Order #12 and protected by our state constitution,” Esenberg and WILL attorney Michael Dean wrote.


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