Gubernatorial candidate sues Gov. Inslee in federal court for ‘blatant violation of Constitution’

The various counts included in Joshua Freed’s lawsuit state violations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the form of Right to Free Exercise, Right to Free Speech and Right to Assemble

Gubernatorial candidate Joshua Freed filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against Gov. Jay Inslee calling his Executive Order (GP 20-25) “unconstitutional and discriminatory.” 

The Governor’s Proclamation banned “all people in Washington State from leaving their homes or participating in … spiritual gatherings of any kind regardless of the number of participants …”. The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief stating that Gov. Inslee cannot ban people from seeing a pastor, priest, rabbi, or imam or from coming together to pray. 

Joshua Freed
Joshua Freed

A Wednesday press release from Freed’s staff stated, “Washington citizens deserve to have their first amendment rights respected’’ and that Freed has turned to the courts to clarify the extent of the governor’s authority under the U.S. Constitution. 

“The Governor’s gross abuse of power is a clear violation of our first amendment rights and our religious freedom. It is misguided and without explanation, data, or sound reasoning and this type of discrimination must end,” said Freed. “If a Washington citizen can visit a marijuana shop or grocery store to buy goods in a responsible and socially distanced manner, how are they not allowed to practice faith-based activities and have spiritual fellowship using the same precautions?

“Once again, Olympia works for the well connected but doesn’t help those who truly need it,’’ Freed stated. “Why should groups who donate to the governor’s campaign be called “essential” while landscapers and hairstylists are prohibited from working and unemployment skyrockets? Why are people of faith prohibited to meet in a responsible manner and why are people who are hurting not allowed to meet with their pastor or faith leader? All our citizens deserve to have their rights respected. Sadly, that is currently not the case.”

Freed is described on his campaign website as an experienced leader in small business and  local government. He is the owner and founder of a real estate company touted as “one of the premier locally owned homebuilders in the Puget Sound region.’’ Freed, a lifelong Washington resident, is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University. He was elected to the Bothell City Council in 2005 and later served as mayor of that city.

In his lawsuit, Freed states that he is the founder of Globe Leadership and is a former licensed marriage and family counselor. For the past two and half years, he and his wife have hosted a Bible study in their home every Wednesday evening. He said it is a small group and that his home allows for the meetings to be held outdoors when weather permits. The group is made up primarily of high school and college students. He said his gatherings are now being impeded “by being prohibited by order of the Governor from meeting with even a single individual to pray, worship and have fellowship in person.’’

Freed said none of the participants of his past meetings have contracted COVID-19. He also states his intention to practice social distancing measures and other health safety protocol if he is allowed to hold the meetings in the future.

The various counts included in Freed’s lawsuit state violations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the form of Right to Free Exercise, Right to Free Speech and Right to Assemble. 

In the lawsuit, Freed requests that the Court “Enter a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction prohibiting the State of Washington from enforcing the portion of GP 20-25 banning spiritual gatherings regardless of the number of participants, thus allowing Plaintiff and the members of his Bible study to continue to meet in-person (as a group or individually) for prayer and worship while practicing adequate social distancing.’’ Also, the lawsuit asks the Court to “Enter a judgment declaring that GP 20-25 violates the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise, Free Speech, Right to Assemble, and Due Process Clauses.’’​