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DC Mayor Muriel Bowser relaxes worship restrictions ahead of court ruling

Following a lawsuit and restraining order request from Cardinal Wilton Gregory's archdiocese, the Black Catholic mayor of DC has revised earlier worship restrictions.

As COVID-related worship restrictions continue to fall in the the Amy Coney Barrett era, DC's proposed 50-person cap has met its match, with Mayor Muriel Bowser acquiescing on Wednesday in light of the lawsuit brought by her own archdiocese.

Replaced by a 25% cap, the former restrictions set by Bowser—a Black Catholic—were revised before an actual legal resolution, with the archdiocese having sued her on December 11th.

"We are grateful that the new order will allow us to welcome more of the faithful to Church during the Christmas season and beyond," the archdiocese said yesterday in a statement.

The lawsuit reportedly came only after the archdiocese's attempts to resolve the issue outside of court, the failure of which led to the suit as well as a restraining order request on the 14th seeking to have the limits lifted before Christmas.

The newly relaxed restrictions, in addition to the 25% cap, will limit churches to 250 people if their capacity is higher than 1,000—such as in DC's National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in North America, which seats three times as much.

Lawsuits similar to the DC archdiocese's reached the Supreme Court bench on Tuesday, with restrictions in Colorado and New Jersey being effectively struck down by conservative justices, sent back to the lower courts for review.

The suit in DC was still in its initial stage in the district court—where it remains.

"We are continuing to evaluate the impact of these new rules, and it may still be necessary for the court to weigh in on the proper balance between public safety and the fundamental right to worship."

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder of Black Catholic Messenger, a priesthood applicant with the Josephites, and a ThM student w/ the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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