ORRINGTON, Maine — As patrons gathered for Mother's Day mass at Calvary Chapel in Orrington, some may have been completely unaware of the legal battles going on between the church and the State because of coronavirus, COVID-19.
Pastor Ken Graves defied Governor Janet Mills' coronavirus orders by having an in-person service last week, and again on Sunday. Phase one of the state's reopening plan allows, "limited drive-in, stay-in-your-vehicle church services". Because patrons were inside the building and outside their cars, the church was in violation of the order.
Last week, Graves filed a ten-count lawsuit against the governor claiming the limited size of gatherings to ten people violate the church's constitutional and statutory rights.
The church filed a motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, which was denied on Saturday, hours before 8 a.m. mass on Sunday.
Two outdoor, in-person services were held for patrons at 8 and 11 Sunday morning, the 9:30 service was a drive-in service in compliance with the governor's order.
Assistant Pastor Travis Carey said more than 120 people attended the 8 a.m. service despite the cold and windy weather.
“We are protected by the constitution to gather and under the first amendment and so people are making that stand and we’re happy to follow our pastor and do the same," Carey said.
Pastor Ken Graves said it was a "blessing" to see so many people gather in "the name of the lord."
“They’re pretty conscious that their rights have been violated. That there’s a freedom they’re standing up for by coming out here.” Graves said.
After United States District Judge Nancy Torresen denied the church's motion, it filed for an appeal. Graves said he is hoping for the sixth circuit court of appeals to find a different ruling.
“If the first circuit rules different than the sixth circuit then you got a split court and an opportunity to get the supreme court-involved," Graves said.
“We are ready to take this all the way up to the Supreme Court level and in fact we suspect that is where this fight will go," Carey added.
In the 9:30 sermon, Graves spoke about the coronavirus pandemic. He told his listeners to wash their hands thoroughly and to be safe.
He also mentioned his church needs to get out and vote in the coming elections to vote the current government leaders out, and the "right: ones" in.
“Only have of the people that identify as Christians in America are even registered to vote and then only half of those vote in a presidential election, it’s really sad," Graves said.
As far as what to expect next Sunday and in Sunday's to follow, Graves said his church isn't switching things up.
“We will continue for as long as it takes, to continue to meet every lord’s day, in-person, outside," Graves added.
NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to the Office of the Maine Attorney General, who represented Governor Janet Mills in the case, for comment. A spokesperson told NEWS CENTER Maine the state believes the ruling speaks for itself.
At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus