The Supreme Court handed a partial victory to a California church arguing that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus restrictions on the number of worshippers allowed at a service violate its religious freedom on Thursday.
Harvest Rock Church first brought a lawsuit against Newsom over the summer, claiming that the governor’s orders to keep houses of worship closed violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause granting freedom to worship, as well as the Establishment Clause which prohibits the government from trying to “force or influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will” by imposing fines for violators.
Instead of ruling on the case, the Supreme Court sent the case down to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to be reconsidered following its recent ruling in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, barring the state of New York from imposing strict attendance limits on religious services, in a major win for religious freedom.
“The September 2 order of the United States District Court for the Central District of California is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit with instructions to remand to the District Court for further consideration in light of Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo,” the unsigned Supreme Court order read.
Harvest Rock’s Pastor Ché Ahn told The Federalist in July that Newsom imposed a double standard in shutting down religious services while praising the reckless protests and looting that ensued following the death of George Floyd, which lacked compliance with CDC guidelines.
The church’s attorney Matthew Staver also told The Federalist that the Constitution makes it clear the government cannot prevent citizens from gathering to worship.
“Within California, you’ve got some pretty egregious constitutional violations, and it ought to be clear no matter what ideology any particular judge may have personally. On the law, this is unconstitutional,” he said. “This is the governor putting the template on all houses of worship.”
You can listen to more of Ahn and Staver’s reasoning behind the lawsuit on this episode of The Federalist Radio Hour.