Federal judge denies bid to expand religious services

WILMINGTON – A federal judge has denied a New Castle area pastor’s bid for a temporary restraining order regarding state of emergency orders during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Rev. Dr. Christopher Bullock earlier filed a civil lawsuit against Gov. John Carney claiming that his constitutional rights to practice religion freely was being denied by restrictions in the emergency order. He pointed to supposed first and 14th amendment rights violations and aimed to expand church services by Sunday.

Following the 12-page ruling by United States District Judge Colm F. Connolly on Friday, attorneys representing the plaintiff filed an appeal seeking a preliminary injunction by 10 a.m. Sunday.

Judge Connolly determined that a temporary restraining order would further restrict, not expand religious practices based on the state’s guidance put in effect on May 23.

Also, according for the District of Delaware judge, “Dr. Bullock has made no showing that he will be irreparably harmed if I do not issue his proposed temporary restraining order.”

Judge Connolly issued the decision after a nearly three-hour appeal hearing by teleconference on Thursday. Attorneys Thomas and Steve Neuberger represented the Rev. Dr. Bullock, while Deputy Attorney General Allison McCowan spoke for the state.

The Rev. Dr. Bullock is pastor at Canaan Baptist Church in New Castle.

The judge pointed to issues when finding that no irreparable harm had been shown by the plaintiff’s attorneys:

• The requirement that preachers wear a mask while preaching.

• The requirement that the pastor (or anyone else) not hold a person during the course of
the person’s baptism.

• Certain requirements that relate to the preparation and distribution of communion.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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