- The Washington Times
Monday, July 20, 2020

Churchgoers sued California Gov. Gavin Newsom over his ban on indoor services in several counties, including in-home Bible studies.

Harvest Rock Church and its ministry argued the ban, which was aimed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, is unconstitutional and they’re asking the court for an injunction, permitting churchgoers to still meet and not face 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 complaint filed Saturday read. “And, the Governor explicitly encouraged such large gatherings of protesters while condemning churches for [singing] hymns in their churches.”

Earlier this month the governor said worship could take place in the state with an indoor limit at 25 percent capacity but his order restricted singing to stop the spread of respiratory droplets.

Less than two weeks later, though, on July 13, he announced some counties must close indoor services.

Harvest Rock Church, represented by the religious liberty legal group Liberty Counsel, argued the ban applies to at-home Bible studies too, which the church helps facilitate.

“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,” said Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel.

“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,” Mr. Staver added.

Harvest International Ministry includes 162 churches in the state.

Mr. Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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