The Great Lakes Justice Center has filed a lawsuit against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer alleging she violated at least six provisions in the U.S. Constitution.
Her restrictions in response to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, including banning travel between homes, have drawn mass protests.
The complaint announced Wednesday challenges her claim that criminal charges can be filed and fines imposed against violators of her orders. The lawsuit was filed in Grand Rapids on behalf of several individuals and churches in the state.
It alleges she has violated the First Amendment’s protections of the free exercise of religion, free expression and association.
The complaint also alleges violation of the due process rights of the plaintiffs and the constitutional requirement for separation of powers.
Finally, she’s accused of violating the constitutional assurance of a republican form of government and the Constitution with her use of the state’s emergency powers provisions.
“Just because a governor has ink in her pen does not mean the Constitution authorizes her to use it, notwithstanding good intentions,” GLJC said. “The Constitution does not become irrelevant during any emergency, including a pandemic.”
The center said, “Instead of every citizen being subject to the rule of law, they have become subjects of defendant’s daily edicts.”
“Nothing in the U.S. Constitution authorizes a state governor to suspend constitutional representative governance by declaring new emergencies every 28 days into perpetuity. Allowing one person to wield absolute power is not a republican form of government, it is tyranny,'” GLJC said.
“Churches are essential to the health and well-being of everyone,” said David A. Kallman, senior counsel with GLJC. “If Walmart and Home Depot can open and sell goods to customers while following CDC guidelines, surely churches can do the same.”
The case was filed in federal court in the Western District of Michigan Southern Division. It’s on behalf of Word of Faith Christian Center, Keith Butler, Tim Schmig, D. Litt, Whole Life Church, Chuck Vizthum, Northern Michigan Baptist Bible Church and Stanley Chatfield III.
It seeks a declaratory judgment that the governors acts are unlawful and unconstitutional, and a ruling that she acted outside her authority and that the state’s Emergency Powers plan is unconstitutional.
The case points argues that under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment “government must not make a law ‘prohibiting the free exercise’ of religion.”
However, the governor “substantially interfered with an deprived plaintiffs of their right to the free exercise of religion in violation of the First Amendment.”