A tent used for Sunday services at Peoples Church on Tuesday, May 19. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Restrictions on businesses and churches related to the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in place following a ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court on Friday.
The state’s highest court found that Baker County Circuit Court Judge Matt Shirtcliff erred when he ruled in May that Gov. Kate Brown’s legal pandemic-related orders had run past their 28-day legal limit.
After Shirtcliff issued his decision on May 18, the governor’s orders were no longer in effect for a matter of hours until the Supreme Court mandated that they remain in place while it considered the matter. Shirtcliff has now been ordered by the court to vacate his earlier ruling.
“The circuit court's statutory analysis cannot be reconciled with the statutory text and context, and is directly at odds with how the legislature intended the statute to apply,” the court said in its decision.
The ruling is the latest setback for businesses, churches and others who have chafed under the orders.
On May 6, a range of churches and businesses filed the lawsuit challenging the orders issued by Brown in March. The lawsuit described how churches have been blocked from holding services and businesses have struggled. The churches and businesses were represented by Kevin Mannix, a longtime figure in GOP state politics, and Ray Hacke, of religious liberty nonprofit Pacific Justice Institute.
The decision from the state’s highest court came a day after Brown announced that she would be pausing her phased reopening plan after a spike in cases.
Among the churches involved in the lawsuit was the Peoples Church in Salem. The church’s pastor, Scott Erickson, was not immediately available for comment.
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Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.