By Associated Press - Saturday, May 30, 2020

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - A federal judge and a federal appeals panel have rejected a request from a Delaware preacher for an emergency injunction to lift state restrictions on church worship to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Neither the ruling Friday from a judge in Wilmington nor the 2-1 ruling Saturday from the federal appeals court in Philadelphia end the matter. They only leave the restrictions in place while a judge considers the merits of the issue.

Christopher Allan Bullock, a well-known Wilmington pastor and community activist, had requested an emergency injunction to lift the restrictions ahead of Sunday, which is Pentecost.

Judge Colm Connolly said the pastor could not prove he would be irreparably harmed, a legal standard required for issuing an injunction. But he made clear in his ruling that Bullock’s claims “implicate one of our most treasured rights protected by the Constitution - the right to exercise freely one’s religion.” And he said he would give Bullock’s arguments full consideration.

Delaware’s restrictions on church services have evolved. Initially services could not exceed 10 worshipers. That restriction has been lifted but others are in place, including limits on capacity, staggered arrival times and encouraging congregants 65 and older to stay home.

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