A California District judge has issued a statewide permanent injunction against COVID-19 restrictions on churches and places of worship.
The case involves Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena and the Harvest international Ministry. It came after the state had moved to ban indoor worship services last year, along with other indoor activities like dining and movie theaters, in its “Tier 1” areas, which encompassed most of the state.
Under the settlement, California will also have to pay $1.3 million in attorney fees.
The church had challenged California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on indoor church services that included in-home Bible study groups.
Harvest Rock Church and its members had argued Newsom’s indoor church service ban was unconstitutional.
The churchgoers had been asking the court to issue an injunction, which would allow them to meet in person without facing consequences from the state.
“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 original complaint filed last year stated. “And, the Governor explicitly encouraged such large gatherings of protesters while condemning churches for [singing] hymns in their churches.”
In July 2020, Newsom said places of worship could resume indoor services with a limited capacity of 25% attendance. His order put a ban on singing to help stop the spread of respiratory droplets that could contain coronavirus.
Two weeks after he allowed indoor worship to resume, he announced some counties experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases should stop meeting inside.
Newsom, however, lifted restrictions on churches last month, according to Pasadena Now.
Religious liberty legal group Liberty Counsel represented Harvest Rock Church in its challenge.
In a statement, Pastor Ché Ahn said, “This is a momentous day for churches in America. After nearly a yearlong battle defending our religious freedoms, our lawsuit has reached a permanent settlement in our favor.
“I am thrilled to see the complete reversal of the last discriminatory restrictions against churches in California, knowing this case will act as a precedent, not only in our state, but also in our nation. We are incredibly grateful to our attorney Mat Staver and to Liberty Counsel for their relentless support and fierce determination. Most of all, we give all the glory to God for moving mightily in this historic season.”
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