The Deschutes County commission is due to hold a special meeting Thursday at which commissioners will consider asking county staff to refuse to enforce or help enforce any state restrictions on worship of God derived from ‘an executive order from Governor Kate Brown.
It is either a blow to freedom of worship or an attack on the authority of the governor, perhaps both.
“… Deschutes County will take no action to enforce state government restrictions, in accordance with Executive Orders by Governor Kate Brown, which restrict or interfere with the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Oregonians to assemble to worship God.”
“… Deschutes County employees must not assist state agencies or state employees in enforcing executive orders from Governor Kate Brown that restrict or obstruct the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Oregonians to assemble for worship God. “
We asked County Administrator Tom Anderson if a legal opinion or memo had been prepared in support of this order by the County Legal Department. We also asked if the county intended to exclude its protections for religions that do not worship God, such as Buddhism. Anderson said he would ask the legal department and commissioners to respond. We did not receive a response on time. There are more details, however, in the related news.
We also emailed Governor Kate Brown’s office and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. There too, no answer either.
The freedom of people to come together to worship during the pandemic has been a controversial topic. The churches have filed a complaint. Preventing such gatherings arguably violates constitutional protections of freedom of religion and assembly. And why can businesses stay open with social distancing but churches can’t? President Trump has also called on governors across the country to allow churches and places of worship to open.
Do the commissioners have to sign this decree? Should they, instead, try to urge Brown to change policy without order? Should they change the order to include other religions?
Let the commissioners know what you think. E-mail [email protected] or call Commissioner Patti Adair at 541-388-6567, Commissioner Tony DeBone at 541-388-6568 or Commissioner Phil Henderson at 541-388-6569.