The Loveland-based Resurrection Christian School has filed a lawsuit against Larimer County Public Health Director Tom Gonzales, in his capacity as director, and the director of the Department of Health and Environment of Colorado, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, on the mask mandate implemented by the county board of health last year.
The suit primarily focuses on Gonzales, but said Ryan “became party to this
acting in her official capacity as executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The lawsuit, filed by the school’s board of trustees on April 1 in the 8th Judicial District Court, claims that the warrant and threats of closure that followed the school’s refusal to comply, constituted a violation of religious freedom protected by the First Amendment.
“The public health orders effected an unconstitutional power grab and interfered with the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs and values, as well as the fundamental rights of the plaintiffs’ parents to choose a place of religious instruction for the education of their children,” the suit reads in part.
Representatives from the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.
Resurrection Christian, a non-denominational nonprofit school, refused to comply with the countywide mask mandate instituted last year, and when county officials scheduled a site visit to the school in September, said such a visit would be treated as trespassing and threatened to call the police.
The school later said it would comply with the warrant and the site visit was canceled, although RCS Superintendent Jerry Eshleman said in a video announcement at the time that the school would take legal action. in justice.
The mandate was imposed last year amid steadily rising rates of COVID-19 cases. At that time, Gonzales said such a mandate was necessary to stop the surge and prevent area hospitals from overloading intensive care units, which were over capacity for much of the peak of the pandemic.
The mandate, which applied to all indoor public spaces in Larimer County, was lifted in February of this year as COVID-19 case rates began to decline.
“For nearly two years, director Tom Gonzales…relyed on an alleged enormous and transformative allotment of power to wield unbridled and unfettered personal authority to, in effect, legislate,” the lawsuit alleges.
RCS seeks attorney’s fees and acknowledgment that the warrant “interfered with, inhibited, and in some cases prohibited” the right to “decide matters of faith, doctrine, and church governance without government interference or intrusion.” “.
The suit also asks the court to rule that the warrant interfered with parents’ rights “to direct the education of their children” and seeks a ruling that the warrant was “an unconstitutional delegation of power.”
Larimer County commissioners on Tuesday cleared county attorney Bill Ressue to represent Gonzales. However, Ressue has yet to file an official response to the lawsuit.