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The Latest: US judge upholds Nevada cap on church services

June 9, 2020 GMT

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Latest on a federal court battle over COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings in Nevada (all times local):

1:05 p.m.

A federal judge in Las Vegas has ruled against two Nevada churches that argue the state’s coronavirus-related restrictions on religious gatherings are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II denied requests Tuesday from one church in Lyon County and another in Las Vegas that were seeking temporary injunctions to void the state’s 50-person cap on attendance at church services.

Lawyers for Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in Dayton and Calvary Chapel Lone Mountain in Las Vegas argued during a 90-minute telephonic hearing that they are being treated unfairly compared to other entities and businesses.

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They wanted the judge to lift the 50-person cap and instead subject the churches to the less-stringent limits placed on casinos and others allowed to reopen at 50% of building capacity under social distancing protocols.

Judge Boulware says the churches could perhaps in the future prove there’s been a pattern of intentionally enforcing COVID-19 restrictions in a way that singles out religious gatherings. But he says there’s not enough evidence in the record at this time to warrant the court’s involvement.

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9 a.m.

Citing limited enforcement of social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at recent protests over policing and race, a rural Nevada church is trying again to persuade a federal judge that the state’s 50-person cap on religious gatherings is unconstitutional.

A judge has scheduled a phone hearing Tuesday to consider Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley’s latest bid for a court order subjecting it to less-stringent limits placed on casinos and other businesses allowed to reopen at 50% of building capacity under distancing protocols.

The church’s plea for a temporary injunction — filed last week after a judge rejected their bid May 29 for an emergency order — includes a dozen photographs and video clips of scores of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder as they entered reopened Las Vegas casinos June 4.

It also takes issue with the state’s “selective enforcement” of a ban on public gatherings of more than 50, noting hundreds of Nevadans who demonstrated in Las Vegas and Reno in response to the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck in Minneapolis.