Prompt response to WILL’s letter seeking clarity
The News: Following a letter from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and attorney Michael Dean, Governor Tony Evers clarified today that drive-up religious services are, in fact, permitted under the “Safer at Home” order. WILL and Michael Dean issued the letter Thursday after numerous Wisconsin churches reported that local government officials were using the “Safer at Home” order to prohibit drive-up services.
Governor Evers’ Response: Governor Evers promptly issued a press release making it clear that churches and religious entities are “essential” and that services may be held whether they are small gatherings of fewer than 10 people, or larger gatherings such as drive-up services “with congregants staying in cars, avoiding person-to-person contact.”
The Quote: WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg said, “We are grateful that Governor Evers issued a prompt statement to help clarify the ‘Safer at Home’ order does not prohibit drive-up religious services. We hope that local officials take notice of this and immediately cease all attempts to prohibit such services. Any local government that does not comply should know that WILL attorneys are ready, willing and able to take all actions necessary to defend the rights of Wisconsinites.”
Background: Numerous churches around Wisconsin have planned drive-up religious services this weekend to be conducted in accordance with social distancing guidelines. But religious leaders have reported that some local government officials have interpreted Governor Evers’ “Safer at Home” order to prohibit this type of religious gathering. This interpretation conflicts with both Governor Evers’ order and the Wisconsin Constitution’s protection of religion under Article I, § 18. Seeking clarity, WILL and attorney Michael Dean wrote a joint letter to Governor Evers earlier today.
Going Forward: Churches throughout Wisconsin are able to host drive-up services for Easter Sunday and beyond. Any church engaged in such a service who is cited or otherwise has a government entity interfere with their worship should contact WILL attorneys immediately ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).