DOJ To MD County: Since Protests Are OK Now, What About Church Services?!

(TPM Illustration/Getty Images)
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June 11, 2020 5:50 p.m.

The Trump administration has a track record of defending the religious convictions of its base in spite of restrictions put on public gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. Now the Department of Justice is swooping in to deliver that message to a county in Maryland. 

Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband aired these grievances in a letter sent Wednesday that amounted to trolling Montgomery County officials in Maryland for allowing anti-racism protests while denying gatherings for religious services.

“During a crisis it is important for people of faith to be able to exercise their religion,” Dreiband wrote in the letter on Wednesday. “Montgomery County has shown no good reason for not trusting congregants who promise to use care in worship the same way it trusts political protesters to do the same.”

Dreiband, who serves in the DOJ’s civil right division, cited civil rights concerns in the matter of exercising religious freedom in Montgomery. He urged the county’s leadership to amend the executive order banning public gatherings of more than 10 people so that its residents could gather freely for religious purposes.

The letter followed remarks on Tuesday made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who challenged a double standard that he said permitted anti-police brutality demonstrations to take place but failed to allow the same for religious gatherings for reasons that he attributes to personal bias. 

The DOJ letter, which is addressed to Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and the County Council, calls on local officials to “ensure that it imposes no more onerous conditions on gatherings for religious exercise than it does for other purposes.”

Dreiband also cited an example of hundreds of protesters who he says “packed into a library” in Bethesda despite social-distancing concerns.

The DOJ official cautioned county officials against infringing on “civil liberties,” despite federal authorities cracking down on peaceful protesters outside the White House on June 1.

Breiband also previously issued a letter in May to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, criticizing the mayor for extending a stay-at-home order.

Read the full letter below:

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