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Orrington Church Appeals Rejection of its Federal Suit

BANGOR, Maine - A church in Orrington says it has filed an appeal after its federal suit challenging the constitutionality of the state's temporary ban on in-person church gatherings during the pandemic was rejected.

The Calvary Chapel in Orrington and its pastor, Ken Graves, had sought an order that would allow their church to congregate as usual, inside their building, this weekend.

They were also seeking an injunction lifting such restrictions for all houses of worship going forward.

A note on the church's website suggests that the church was expecting to lose its case, filed earlier this week in Bangor U.S. District Court.  "Not surprisingly the judge at the District Court level has ruled against us. Our lawyers filed a notice of appeal within the hour seeking a ruling from the First Circuit..." it reads. "...we need a victory at the Supreme Court in order for it to benefit the church nationally anyway." 

The Bangor Daily News is reporting that in her Saturday ruling, Judge Nancy Torreson found that Gov. Janet Mills' emergency order prohibiting indoor church gatherings was not unconstitutional, because worship itself was allowed through other means, such as live video and drive in service. The paper reports that Torreson also opined that church services were more similar to schools or theatres than to essential services such as grocery stores.

Meanwhile, the church plans to hold Sunday services outdoors, where worshipers can tune in on a radio band from their cars. But they're also planning to hold services outside, on chairs.

The decision not to gather inside the building as originally planned was made earlier in the week, after the church learned that their suit was not likely to find favor with the District Court.

A message on the church's website from pastor Ken Graves says in order to comply with the same rules currently followed by retail stores, they would not have been able to fit more than 15 church members inside. The message reads: "it is not about the building, rather, it is about the church."