Museum of the Bible Considers Suit Over D.C. Pandemic Lockdown

Officials at the Museum of the Bible said they are considering suing D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser over the city’s latest round of coronavirus restrictions, arguing they violate the museum employees’ religious freedoms and prevent possible religious experiences for visitors.

The museum opened in 2017 with original funding primarily from the evangelical Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby chain store. In a letter sent to Bowser, the museum officials argued that her orders violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.

Bowser demanded museums, libraries and indoor dining be shut down from Dec. 23 to Jan. 15. which includes the season of Advent and Christmas. The Christian holiday is normally a busy time for the museum.

Bowser also announced that the state of emergency and public health emergency for D.C. would be extended through March 31, 2021, so the museum’s closure could last longer.

The museum is reportedly asking that Bowser’s previous restrictions be reinstated where 250 socially-distanced guests could visit per floor. The museum has almost 400,000 square feet across seven floors.

Jeremy Tedesco, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom working on behalf of the museum said that Bowser’s new restrictions are undermined because the city still allows people to frequent places like grocery stores, big-box stores, financial institutions, auto repair shops and transportation services.

When the museum was told to shut down in March, Harry Hargrave, the museum president told the Post they expected to be closed for about a two-week period but was closed until June, “a crippling experience” that resulted in 40 employees being furloughed.

“It’s our desire to be treated the same. We don’t want to create a havoc,” said Hargrave. “We want to stand up for our rights as well, and we feel like they’ve been violated.”



About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met and married an American journalist and moved to D.C. from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A. in Graphics, Media, and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC -OCT 04: The entrance to the Museum of the Bible features relief metal lettering of scriptures in the Latin language. -The Museum of the Bible is a museum being constructed in Washington D.C. documenting the narrative, history and impact of the Bible. The museum is set to open in November 2017. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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