LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA-MARCH 27, 2020-California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in front of the hospital ship USNS Mercy that arrived into the Port of Los Angeles on Friday, March 27, 2020, to provide relief for Southland hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. Also attending the press conference were Director Mark Ghilarducci, Cal OES, left, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, second from right, and Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of Health and Human Services, far right, along with others not shown. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/POOL/TNS)

Court upholds California governor’s coronavirus ban on in-person church services

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on in-person church services, in a split ruling that landed Friday night and is likely to further anger pastors who claim that California is trampling on religious freedoms.

The South Bay United Pentecostal Church in San Diego cannot reopen immediately, the two judges in the majority wrote in their order, because in this case “constitutional standards that would normally govern our review of a Free Exercise claim should not be applied.”

“We’re dealing here with a highly contagious and often fatal disease for which there presently is no known cure. In the words of Justice Robert Jackson, if a “(c)ourt does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact,’” they wrote.

The decision came the same week more than 1,200 pastors vowed to hold in-person services May 31, Pentecost Sunday, defying a state moratorium on religious gatherings that Newsom imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In a letter to Newsom, Robert H. Tyler, an attorney representing a Lodi church that has challenged the governor’s order in court, said more than 1,200 pastors have signed a “Declaration of Essentiality,” asserting their churches are as essential as any grocery or hardware store and should be allowed to reopen.

By Wednesday, many counties in California had received approval to reopen establishments _ retail business, office buildings, restaurants, shopping centers _ as permitted in the second phase of Newsom’s plan to restart the state economy. Churches are not allowed to reopen until the plan’s third phase.

Trump-appointed Judge Daniel Collins dissented, writing “the State’s position on this score illogically assumes that the very same people who cannot be trusted to follow the rules at their place of worship can be trusted to do so at their workplace.”

Newsom has vowed to provide plans on reopening churches Monday, after previously saying that such reopenings were just “a few weeks away.” Some churches that have opened without authorization have been sources for spreading the coronavirus, including in Butte, Mendocino and Lake counties.

Sonali Kohli and Matthew Ormseth, Los Angeles Times

Bay Area NewsCaliforniaCoronavirusPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

DA drops charges against man seen in video of officer using knee restraint

Footage leads to calls for SF police to explicity ban move used in death of George Floyd

City curfew to continue after board fails to muster votes to end it

San Francisco’s curfew order in response to days of protests was hotly… Continue reading

Bayview charter school sues SFUSD for more classroom space

Company calls plan to move to Treasure Island a ‘bad faith offer’

Supes move to reject Breed’s picks for police oversight body, call for strong reformers

Ronen, Mar cite qualification concerns in voting against Police Commission nominees

SF public defender urges police to explicitly bar technique used in George Floyd death

Public Defender Manohar Raju is calling for policy changes after a widely… Continue reading

Most Read