Court rejects challenge to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on in-person church services

A federal appeals court just allowed Gavin Newsom’s ban on church gatherings to remain in effect.

With agitation rising among church leaders in California, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that shuttering churches because of the coronavirus does not infringe on the Bill of Rights, the Daily Caller reported. A Trump-appointed judge dissented, arguing that Newsom’s restrictions wrongly single out religious worshippers.

Court sides with Newsom

California is ending its coronavirus lockdown in phases, and most of the state is currently in phase two, which allows various retail businesses, but not churches (or gyms or barbershops), to operate with modifications, according to The Los Angeles Times. The arbitrary logic of such restrictions, which seem to declare that Walmart is safe but the church pew is not, have angered parishioners all over the country.

On Friday, a three-judge panel handed a victory to Newsom in a lawsuit filed by The South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, with two Democrat-appointed judges finding that Newsom’s restrictions are justified. Citing former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, they argued that “practical wisdom” compels judges to not treat the Bill of Rights like a “suicide pact.”

”We’re dealing here with a highly contagious and often fatal disease for which there presently is no known cure,” Judges Jacqueline Nguyen and Barry Silverman wrote, according to the Daily Caller.

Dissenting, Trump-appointed judge Daniel Collins argued that Newsom’s order clearly violates the First Amendment by singling out church as an activity of lesser significance.

“By explicitly and categorically assigning all in-person ‘religious services’ to a future Phase 3 — without any express regard to the number of attendees, the size of the space, or the safety protocols followed in such services — the State’s Reopening Plan undeniably “discriminate[s] on its face” against “religious conduct.”

Emergency SCOTUS motion filed

The decision came the same day that President Donald Trump caused an uproar on the left by declaring church “essential” and calling on governors to open houses of worship of all faiths, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In the wake of the judicial rebuke, the South Bay United Pentecostal Church called on the Supreme Court to intervene, filing an emergency motion requesting that the ruling be overturned, ABC reported.

“Gov. Newsom would apparently rather litigate this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court than allow a single Californian to go to church,” a lawyer for the church said. “Under the governor’s edicts, Bishop Hodges can bump shoulders with congregants at a shopping mall, but he can’t minister to them in a safe and sanitary church sanctuary. That is blatant religious discrimination, and we hope the Supreme Court agrees.”

As Pentecost nears on May 31, over 1,000 California priests have promised to defy Newsom’s order anyway, with or without legal “permission” to worship.

Newsom plans to announce guidelines on church openings during his press conference Monday afternoon, The Los Angeles Times reported.

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