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Local churches file lawsuit to conduct religious services during pandemic

HOUSTON – At least four churches and another spiritual organization operating in Harris County were poised to file an application for a temporary restraining order on Monday.

Channel 2 Investigates obtained a copy of the legal document, filed on behalf of Hotze Health & Wellness Center, City on a Hill Church, Power of Love Church, World Faith of Houston Church, and Glorious Way Church against Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

“The original petition, applications for temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, and permanent injunction” essentially seeks to deem places of worship as “essential services."

According to the lawsuit, the current “stay at home” order was called somewhat vague in its guidance for religious organizations:

“Per the Texas Attorney General’s guidance on this topic, if religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, then religious services may be conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship. Such services should be conducted consistent with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC...”

“This would be the first time in our history as a country where the government would come in and say on the most holy of holy days that you can’t meet as a corporate body,” attorney Jared Woodfill said.

Pastor John Greiner, who founded Glorious Way Church in the Champions Forest area of northwest Harris County 25 years ago, held an 'in-Church" service Sunday for 99 congregants that were polled before entry and were distanced from each other within the 1,000 seat church.

“It looked to me like a terrible precedent that was being established by a great power in the hands of a very few people to make the determination and it was unclear to me just how they made the determination,” Greiner said.