Three Oregon Lawmakers Join Churches in Lawsuit Against Gov. Kate Brown

“It spread like wildfire. It took on a life of its own.”

Oregon state Rep. Bill Post. (Justin Katigbak)

Three Oregon lawmakers have signed on as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed May 6 by 10 churches against Gov. Kate Brown demanding she allow them to reopen for worship services.

State Sen. Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls), Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer) and Rep. Mike Nearman (R-Independence) have signed on as petitioners, the churches' attorney, Ray Hacke, tells WW.

"It spread like wildfire," Hacke says of the lawsuit. "It took on a life of its own."

Hacke says a handful of additional churches will also be signing on as petitioners, and that he will file the amended complaint today or Tuesday.

The plaintiffs argue that Brown only had authority to extend her executive order 30 days, and that her executive powers expired April 7. As WW previously reported, the churches are asking Baker County Circuit Court to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the governor from enforcing the stay-home order against them.

"Churches are in limbo," Hacke says. "They don't know when they can start practicing again. And it just can't go on indefinitely."

Post confirms to WW that he is joining the lawsuit. He says he hopes the courts will clarify whether the Oregon Department of Justice has correctly interpreted Brown's authority to issue orders without renewal.

"We are very concerned that churches and other places of worship are not being treated in the same manner as, say, Lowe's, Home Depot, Target, Walmart and other large corporate stores," Post tells WW. "I was in my Keizer Lowe's this past Saturday, and there were well over 1,000 people in the store at one time."

Post added that with proper social distancing, churches should be allowed to open in a "limited but reasonable" fashion.

"I can't speak for all plaintiffs, but for me, we aren't looking to return to 'what used to be' anytime soon," Post says, "just that churches and places of worship be treated the same as any other 'business.'"

Post joins plaintiffs that include Elkhorn Baptist Church in Baker City, Calvary Chapel in Newberg, Calvary Chapel in Lincoln City, Calvary Chapel in Southeast Portland, New Horizon Christian Fellowship in Klamath Falls, Camas Valley Christian Fellowship, Peoples Church in Salem, Bend Community Church, Prepare the Way in Bend, and Covenant Grace Church in Roseburg.

Nearman and Linthicum could not be reached immediately for comment. Post confirmed in his statement that they have also signed on as plaintiffs.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.