Judge Prohibits California Governor Newsom From Discriminating Against Churches With COVID-19 Regulations

2013 Catalyst West Photos by Brian A Petersen http://brianapetersen.com

A California judge has issued a state-wide injunction against Governor Gavin Newsom, preventing him from imposing COVID-19 restrictions on houses of worship and religious gatherings.

Pasadena’s Harvest Rock Church reached a settlement with the State of California in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Golden State’s pandemic rules for the faith community.

District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal ordered that Newsom, in his capacity as Governor of California, as well as all other persons acting on behalf of the state, were enjoined from issuing or enforcing regulations related to the COVID-19 State of Emergency initially declared in March that unfairly restrict religious gatherings.

The judge also ordered California to pay over $1 million in legal fees and attorney costs to the Liberty Counsel, which represented Harvest Rock Church.

This is a significant national win for the faith community and the preservation of our sacred First Amendment rights, explained Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver in a statement released earlier this week.

He explained the judge’s order marks the “first state-wide permanent injunction in the country against COVID restrictions on churches and places of worship. Under the agreed state-wide permanent injunction, all California churches may hold worship without discriminatory restrictions.”

“Under the settlement, California may no longer impose discriminatory restrictions upon houses of worship. The governor must also pay Liberty Counsel $1,350,000 to reimburse attorney’s fees and costs,” Staver stated.

He explained that the settlement, which references Supreme Court rulings Tandon v. Newsom (2021), South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom (2021), Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, and Harvest Rock Church, Inc. v. Newsom (2021), which was based on a separate lawsuit, determined churches must be treated as essential.

“The settlement references several Supreme Court opinions, including Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom, that include a long list of similar nonreligious activity the High Court set forth as comparable gatherings. These include grocery stores, warehouses, big box stores, transportation, infrastructure, telecommunications, and much more,” he noted.

“In other words, churches and places of worship may never again have discriminatory restrictions placed on them that are not equally applied to a long list of ‘critical infrastructure’ or ‘essential services’ as outlined in several Supreme Court precedents cited in the settlement agreement,” Staver said.

Newsom’s COVID-19 restrictions have been some of the most far-reaching—and criticized—in the nation, so for the state to be subject to such a definitive ruling barring it from discriminating against the religious community is a huge legal victory!

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