News & Politics

D.C. Archdiocese Settles Lawsuit Against the City

The cap on church attendance has been raised to as much as 250 people, up from 50.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception could fit the Statue of Liberty inside, the suit says. Photograph by faustasyan via iStock.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has settled the lawsuit it filed against the DC government earlier this month alleging that the city’s covid restrictions limiting indoor religious gatherings to 50 attendees violated churchgoers right to worship.

As part of the settlement, the Archdiocese has agreed to abide by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s December 16 order that set a higher attendance cap for houses of worship: 250 attendees or a quarter of the church’s capacity, whichever is less.

“While some churches may now allow up to 250 worshippers to attend services,” D.C.’s Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a statement Tuesday, after the settlement was reached, “I strongly encourage residents to continue following the guidance of medical and public health experts and help stop the spread of COVID-19: stay home whenever possible, and avoid spending time indoors with people outside your household.”

In an Op-Ed published Monday in The Washington Post, the archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, Wilton Gregory, said the lawsuit had been “a last resort,” writing that we could no longer bear the burden of turning away the faithful from Mass due to D.C.’s 50-person cap on religious services when big-box stores, retailers, and even liquor stores and many other venues continued to operate without similar limits.”

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Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.