WOODLAND PARK, Colo. (KRDO) — A new hearing has been set for the next step in a legal battle between public health leaders and a Woodland Park ministry.
Andrew Wommack Ministries (AWMI) defied a Colorado public health order when hosting hundreds of people at Charis Bible College for an in-person conference last week.
The Colorado Attorney General and Teller County officials are seeking a preliminary injunction against AWMI that would prevent ministry leaders from holding large gatherings over the state’s current 175 capacity limit during the pandemic.
The hearing is set on October 27, just ahead of AMWI’s Women Arise 2020 conference, which is expected to be held in-person at Charis Bible College.
AMWI previously said it believes the public health orders handed down by Governor Jared Polis are unconstitutional and they intend to “vindicate their first amendment rights.”
On Friday, a judge granted a temporary 14-day restraining order against the AWMI, but ministry leaders weren’t served with the order until after the conference had ended.
If the court grants a preliminary injunction in two weeks, legal experts believe there could be serious consequences for ministry leaders.
“It’s not just the state that’s coming in, but it’s Teller County officials themselves that are coming in and saying you have to stop,” said Jeremy Loew, a criminal attorney based in Colorado Springs.
Loew tells 13 Investigates that if AMWI violates a court order, a judge could hold ministry leaders in contempt of court.
“They can put people in jail, and the judges are taking this very seriously,” Loew explained.
A possible punishment could be up to six months in jail, according to Loew.
Loew says the ministry could potentially face lawsuits for violating public health orders too.
“If they’re violating orders and they’re acting recklessly, they could be opening themselves up civilly to a lawsuit if it can be traced back to one of their attendees at a conference center that has exposed somebody to COVID,” Loew said.
Health officials previously connected two coronavirus outbreaks to AWMI following two large in-person gatherings over the summer. Teller County health officials have said that at least 71 people contracted COVID-19, and one person died after attending those events.
13 Investigates reached out to the attorney representing the ministry on Tuesday. A spokesperson said they are preparing a response.