Liberty Counsel filed the opening brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry against Governor Gavin Newsom’s worship restrictions. This is regarding the merits of the case on the injunction while the Ninth Circuit is yet to release its ruling on the emergency injunction pending appeal (IPA). The IPA was argued before the Ninth Circuit on January 4, 2021. A decision on the IPA could be issued any day.
Since the initial stay-at-home order of March 19, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom has continued to discriminate against places of worship. On July 6, Gov. Newsom banned singing and chanting. On July 13, Gov. Newsom banned all indoor worship, and on August 28, the “Blueprint” continued to ban all worship in Tier 1, which covered most of the state. Then on December 3, Gov. Newsom issued a “temporary” Regional Stay-at-Home Order that continues to ban all worship for 99.9 percent of California residents.
While Newsom continues to ban all worship, the Regional Stay-at-Home Order contains 29 single-spaced pages of exemptions covering 13 sectors and hundreds of subsectors of gatherings that are permitted to operate and assemble. The Supreme Court, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and even the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals involving Nevada churches, found discrimination against places of worship because the COVID orders exempted many non-religious activities. Examples of these exemptions include: food packaging and processing; laundromats; warehouses; grocery stores; liquor stores; retail stores; malls; transportation facilities; bus stations; train stations; airports; gambling centers; acupuncture facilities; garages; plants manufacturing chemicals and microelectronics; hardware stores; repair shops; signage companies; accountants; lawyers; insurance agents; pet stores; film production facilities; and more. Gov. Newsom’s orders clearly violate the First Amendment.
Harvest Rock Church–Pastor Che’ Ahn, the staff, and parishioners– are under constant threat of arrest and fines. The Pasadena Criminal Prosecutor issued the following threat by letter: “Any violations in the future will subject your Church owners, administrators, operators, staff, and parishioners to the above-mentioned criminal penalties as well as the potential closure of your Church.”
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to violate the First Amendment by discriminating against houses of worship. California imposes the most severe restrictions in the nation. For nearly seven months it has been criminal for people to worship in person. The Supreme Court has issued a clear road map that leads to the undeniable conclusion that Gov. Newsom’s worship ban is unconstitutional.”
Used with the permission of Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.