After Governor Gavin Newsom issued an order requiring all indoor church services to cease—even small Bible study groups meeting in private homes—a church in California is defending its First Amendment rights in court.
According to the Washington Times, Harvest Rock Church and its members are suing Gov. Newsom over the unconstitutional order.
A lawsuit document published by Liberty Counsel, the religious liberty law firm representing the church, reveals that the plaintiffs asked the court on Friday to issue an injunction, allowing them to meet until a ruling on Newsom’s order is issued.
“While the Governor has unilaterally and significantly restricted the number of individuals permitted to ‘gather’ in Plaintiffs’ churches, he has imposed no similar restrictions on the untold thousands of protesters who have gathered all throughout California cities with no threat of criminal sanction, and no social distancing or restrictions whatsoever,” the complaint states. “And, the Governor explicitly encouraged such large gatherings of protesters while condemning churches for [singing] hymns in their churches.”
Earlier in July, Newsom allowed houses of worship to resume indoor services with a 25% building capacity attendance cap, including a ban on singing to curb the transmission of coronavirus via airborne droplets.
Just two weeks after that move, Newsom hit churches and in-home gatherings in 30 counties with another order to cease indoor operations.
“Gov. Gavin Newsom cannot disregard the First Amendment and ban all in-person worship in private homes and churches; nor can the state micromanage the form of worship by banning singing or chanting,” founder of Liberty Counsel Mat Staver said in a statement last week.
“The governor is not the High Priest over all religions. There is not two First Amendments – one for protests and one for houses of worship. Gov. Newsom encourages thousands of protesters to gather in the streets but bans in-person worship and home Bible studies and fellowship. This discriminatory treatment is unconstitutional.”
Liberty Counsel also reported that Gov. Newsom has been ordered to file a reply to the request for a preliminary injunction by August 3.
In an editorial earlier this month, Staver denounced Newsom’s oppressive limits on churches and Christians during the pandemic.
“First, Newsom tried to limit all churches, regardless of their size, to just 10 people total in the building,” Staver wrote. “Then he banned singing and chanting. And on Tuesday, Gov. Newsom issued a new edict via the State’s Public Health Officer dictating that about 80 percent of California’s faithful may not gather for any worship, no matter how small the gathering.”
“Under California’s latest directive, you can engage in revolutionary riots tearing businesses and neighborhoods apart, but you cannot have a Bible study with your neighbor or friend in your own home,” Staver said, with a clear message for Newsom: “Gov. Newsom, I have news for you – you cannot chain the Word of God and the Holy Spirit! It won’t work.”
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