Andrew Wommack Ministries International (AWMI) is fighting the state of Colorado over what it believes is a violation of the ministry’s First Amendment rights to assemble. Additionally, AWMI feels it was treated in a discriminatory manner by the state when it was targeted with a cease and desist order.
“To me, this is a first amendment right,” Andrew Wommack told LIFE Today Live host Randy Robison in an interview. “I just think that if I continue to close down every time they [the state] say something, it’s like I’m giving up one of our constitutional rights for free assembly.”
Last week, the Woodland Park, Colorado-based ministry hosted a Family Summer Bible Conference for around 1,000 people. They were issued a cease and desist order from the state’s Attorney General’s office for violating the county’s 175-person cap for indoor events. Now, the ministry is taking legal action to fight the order. AWMI hired Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit ministry that provides legal services, to represent them.
Wommack emphasized he’s “concerned about the virus and protecting people,” but believes they took “every precaution” during their conference. In fact, the leader of AWMI believes his staff exercised “more precautions, certainly than what they’ve had at these protests,” he continued, alluding to the protests that have taken place in Colorado over police brutality and which, he believes, have been encouraged by Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis.
How Did AWMI ‘take every precaution’?
ChurchLeaders reached out to AWMI to ask about the specific precautions the ministry took during their Family Summer Bible Conference. We were informed that before the conference, the ministry ran their proposed plan for social distancing at the conference by the Teller County Public Health Department (TPCH). TPCH reviewed the plan and responded, offering some changes. According to a spokesperson for AWMI, the ministry adhered to the following protocols during the conference:
Attendees were given a health screening questionnaire
Attendees’ temperatures were checked
Social distancing was practiced between staff and between guests
Personal protection equipment was utilized (masks and gloves for employees)
Appropriate COVID-19 and social distancing signage was used
One-way traffic flow was used
Sanitation stations were placed throughout all areas of the building
Medically-approved sanitation protocols were in place
Additionally, they encouraged attendees to wear masks, but did not require them. The spokesperson disclosed many people chose to wear a mask, along with AWMI staff.
By their own admission, the only protocol AWMI chose not to adhere to was the cap on attendees. According to the spokesperson, they were not willing to tell people not to come to the conference, as “that would be a violation of our constitutional right to peaceably assemble and to freely exercise our religion.”
How Does This Scenario Compare With Protests?
Liberty Counsel has sent a letter on behalf of AWMI to Colorado State Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office to oppose the cease and desist order. The letter states the ministry has been treated in a discriminatory manner given the fact that thousands of people are allowed to protest in the streets without threat of legal action from the state, yet the ministry cannot hold its conference, unless it adheres to an “arbitrary numerical limitation.”
The letter argues that other states “have determined that churches are essential” and therefore are allowed to operate “with no numerical restrictions” so long as they follow proper social distancing and sanitizing practices. Liberty Counsel believes AWMI should be allowed to follow a 50 percent rule, wherein businesses and facilities are allowed to fill their buildings by half of their normal capacity. For AWMI, which held the conference at its Charis Bible College location that has a total seating capacity of approximately 5,000 (the auditorium seats 3,200), they were well within that 50 percent cap with their approximately 1,000 attendees.