A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a request to issue a temporary restraining order sought by people challenging Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed by a group that included Del. Dan Cox, a Frederick Republican.
The plaintiffs were identified in court documents as individuals threatened with arrest if they violated the executive orders or who objected to having to comply; businesses deemed non-essential; and religious leaders whose ability to hold religious services has been affected by the orders, which they called unlawful.
Also, the plaintiffs argued that Hogan violated a portion of the Maryland Declaration of Rights by “silencing a legislator who wished to speak about an issue and by refusing to exempt legislators from the prohibitions in his executive orders.”
Court documents indicated Cox said he was threatened with criminal prosecution if he attended a ReOpen Maryland rally on May 2 which was held in protest to Hogan’s executive order. At issue was the prohibition on large gatherings.
“I think everybody has a right to protest and express their feelings,” Hogan said on CNN on May 3. “A couple of dozen people did so yesterday. And they have every right to do that. We — sadly, we had far more people die yesterday in Maryland than we had protesters.”
Nine ministers and a deacon were also plaintiffs in the case, arguing that they didn’t have the resources or equipment to broadcast their worship services online or to hold parking lot or drive-in services. They said even if they could, their members didn’t necessarily have the resources to watch online.
Two military veterans also voiced objections to Hogan’s executive orders because they said having to wear a mask to cover their faces when entering a business reminded them of the battlefield in Iraq, according to the document.
“Public officials cannot responsibly exercise their broad authority to protect the health of the entire community without considering the data, the science, and the advice of experienced public health professionals,” Blake wrote. She said the governor “has made reasonable choices informed, if not dictated by, such data, science and advice.”
Blake said the plaintiffs’ opposition to Hogan’s order “minimize the risks of this pandemic but cite no contrary scientific authority.”