WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr has fired a warning shot at Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak calling the Silver State’s ban on religious gatherings of 10 or more people “unconstitutional.”
“The flat prohibition against 10 or more persons gathering for in-person worship services — regardless of whether they maintain social-distancing guidelines — impermissibly treats religious and nonreligious organizations unequally,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Nicholas Trutanich and Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband warned in a letter to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a registered Democrat.
“These directives may violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, unless the government can prove a compelling interest and pursued the least restrictive means possible,” the letter continued, calling on Sisolak to address “unequal treatment of places of worship.”
Sisolak initiated the ban the week of Easter Sunday, claiming reports that religious services in other states had spurred isolated corona virus outbreaks in late March and early April.
The move by Barr’s Justice Department follows President Donald Trump’s declaration on Friday that faith gatherings would be deemed “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now – for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” the president warned. “In America, we need more prayer, not less.”