A California church has filed a federal lawsuit after the state's governor enforced a total ban on "in-person religious gatherings", meaning indoor services and even home Bible studies are now prohibited.
In a bid to stem the soaring rate of Covid-19 infections, Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted the restriction across 30 counties and placed a further statewide ban on corporate singing. In response, religious freedom law firm Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of the multi-site Harvest Rock Church and the related Harvest International Ministry which accuses the Governor of being hypocritical.
The suit argues that the Governor has "unilaterally and significantly restricted the number of individuals permitted to ‘gather’ in Plaintiffs’ churches" while refusing to impose 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".
It adds that Newsom "explicitly encouraged such large gatherings of protesters while condemning churches for singing hymns in their churches".
Liberty said it was seeking a "preliminary injunction" on behalf of Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry against Governor Gavin Newsom’s "unconstitutional COVID-19 orders prohibiting all indoor worship services".
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said: “Governor 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. 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.”
California has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases over recent weeks, with 11,800 new infections recorded on Monday alone. Its daily case increases have soared above those reported by any European country at the height of the pandemic. California now sits just behind New York as the second worst-affected state in the US with more than 422,000 confirmed cases.