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Eastern Oregon Church Leads Suit Over Gov. Kate Brown Stay-Home Executive Orders

A number of churches, including Elkhorn Baptist in Baker City, argue Brown's executive orders are invalid on “constitutional procedural grounds.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is facing a lawsuit challenging three executive orders intended to protect residents from the coronavirus by restricting where people can go and how they interact. 

The Pacific Justice Institute is arguing the case for the plaintiffs. It says it “seeks to invalidate” three orders, starting with Brown’s initial emergency declaration, signed on March 8.

While the suit is led by a church in eastern Oregon and filed in Baker City, the lead attorney, Ray Hacke said plaintiffs are all over the state. 

“There’s a rising tide of churches and churchgoers wanting to push back against Governor Brown’s oppressive executive orders, and this case will hopefully remind her that she is not free to dispense with constitutionally protected liberties, even in emergencies,” Hacke said in the statement released by Common Sense for Oregon.

The suit challenges “stay-at-home” mandates Brown signed on March 23, which have effectively shut down significant economic and social activity throughout Oregon — a pattern playing out in numerous other states. The suit also targets an extension of the emergency declaration issued on May 1.

The suit argues that emergency powers only last for 30 days and after that Brown would have needed legislative approval.

“If she needs additional time to adequately respond to the emergency, the governor must obtain a three-fifths vote from each house of the state legislature — which she never did,” according to the Common Sense for Oregon statement.

The governor’s office didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Rob Manning is a JPR content partner from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Rob has reported extensively on Oregon schools and universities as OPB's education reporter and is now a news editor.