SCOTUS Rules In Favor of California Churches Against Gov. Newsom’s Worship Service Restrictions

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The Supreme Court has sided with a California church protesting Governor Gavin Newsom’s stringent restrictions on indoor worship services, throwing out a lower court ruling upholding what amounts, in many counties, to a ban on in-person worship.

According to Liberty Counsel, the religious liberty legal aid group representing Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministries, the unsigned SCOTUS order effectively threw out a district court’s order upholding the restrictions in the state, instead directing the court to heed an earlier SCOTUS ruling that blocked similar restrictions in New York.

As we previously reported, the churches contended in their challenge to Gov. Newsom’s orders that the restrictions unfairly and inequitably restricted religious functions while dealing with secular businesses and organizations more leniently.

“Food packing and processing, laundromats, and warehouses have no capacity limits, liquor and grocery stores have a 50% capacity, and big box centers, shopping malls, laundromats, and destination centers have a 25% capacity,” Liberty Counsel said in their brief to the high court.

On the other hand, the Washington Post adds, 99 percent of Californians live in zones in which no indoor religious services are allowed even while other activities, such as distributing food or providing lodging, are allowed in the very same facilities.

In response, the state argued to the court that churches simply pose a greater risk of virus transmission than other settings.

“Indoor ‘congregate’ activities, in which many people gather together in close proximity for extended periods of time, pose an especially great risk of transmission because of the combination of the number of people, the nature of the activity, and the location,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a brief. “The risk is particularly high when such congregate activities involve singing or chanting, especially when they take place in buildings with limited ventilation.”

Newsom’s defense against the church was likely crippled, however, by his apparent hypocrisy in attending a maskless dinner party at an upscale Napa Valley restaurant after urging Californians even to avoid their own family members for Thanksgiving.

The church included a photo of the now-infamous dinner party in its brief to the court, arguing that “the governor continues to impose draconian and unconscionable prohibitions on the daily life of all Californians that even the governor disregards at his own whim.”

“The writing is on the wall,” proclaimed Liberty Counsel Chief Litigation Counsel Harry Mihet in an update on Facebook. “There is NO WAY that Governor Newsom’s color-coded discrimination can survive a straightforward application of what the Supreme Court already decided in New York.”

VICTORY FOR CALIFORNIA! The Supreme Court of the United States has just granted our emergency petition challenging the…

Posted by Harry Mihet on Thursday, December 3, 2020

“Ultimate victory, and Freedom, is nigh — we pray!” Mihet declared.

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