Maine Pastor To Defy Executive Orders and Bring Maine Governor to Federal Court
Pastor Ken Graves of Calvary Chapel in Orrington, Maine has announced that this week he and his congregation will be defying government orders by meeting in person for public worship and that they will be the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that challenges Maine’s governor Janet Mills closure of places of worship as means to end the spread of COVID-19 in Maine.
In a prepared statement which was read by Graves in a parking lot service on Sunday he said, “We the church do not look to the government for permission to meet. We have a command by God to gather in the name of Jesus Christ. Now we did voluntarily suspend most of our gatherings. We did that for those few weeks in response to the government’s fears, the government’s numbers, their experts projected something so dangerous that potentially two point two million people in our nation could have died….I recognize that the decisions made by our governor are going to have long lasting destructive effects on our economy and our society as a whole. “
He went on to say “It is the language chosen by our governor’s orders that do in fact reveal that the Christian church is in fact being targeted and discriminated against. Our state government has told the church that it is non-essential….I call on all pastors in our state who believe in the Bible to open your church and obey God.”
In mid-March Governor Janet Mills announced an executive order which limited gathering of people in Maine to ten and under. In April she extended that order by another thirty days. In the April extension Governor Mills did allowed for religious institutions to hold public worship in parking lot style services as long as congregation members stayed in their vehicles.
The lawsuit filed by the Liberty Counsel on the behalf of Graves and Calvary Chapel will challenge the governor’s order closing houses of worship as being unconstitutional in light of the First Amendment which forbids the government from making any laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
By defying the governor’s order, Graves and any worshippers who attend the in-person service could be charged with a Class E crime with penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Calvary Chapel is a protestant evangelical church of nearly one thousand members that was founded in the early 1990s in central Maine. This coming Sunday church members and guests will be able to choose from two in-person services and one parking lot service. It is a branch of the original Calvary Chapel founded in Costa Mesa, California, by Chuck Smith, who help lead the Jesus Movement of the 1970s.