UPDATE: Governor Tony Evers responded Thursday with a press release affirming that drive-up religious services are legal.
The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and attorney Michael Dean issued a letter to Governor Tony Evers requesting that he clarify, correct, and restrain local government officials who are using Emergency Order #12, the “Safer at Home” order, to ban drive-up religious services conducted in accordance with social distancing guidelines. We are requesting a response from Governor Evers by 2 PM today to ensure that drive-up Good Friday and Easter services will not be impacted.
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.
Letter to Governor Evers: Rick Esenberg, President and General Counsel of WILL, and Michael Dean, Principal of Michael Dean LLC, wrote to Governor Evers Thursday and said, in part: “We understand the Governor’s responsibility to facilitate the safety of all Wisconsinites in the midst of this pandemic. But we cannot lose our heads. And state and local actors cannot use the occasion of a public health threat to run roughshod over the right to the free exercise of religion while permitting activities that are functionally equivalent from a public health and safety perspective.”
Esenberg and Dean are requesting a response from Governor Tony Evers by 2 PM April 9, 2020 acknowledging that the “Safer at Home” order does not ban drive-up religious services conducted in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
- Letter to Governor Tony Evers, April 9, 2020