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Governor Newsom has developed quite a habit for targeting churches in his state during the Corona Virus pandemic.
Now he’s shut them down again.
Just recently he tried to ban singing in them.
Now 3 are fighting back.
As reported by Yahoo:
Three California churches are bringing a federal lawsuit against the state over Governor Gavin Newsom’s ban on singing as a part of religious services, claiming that the coronavirus restriction is being applied to them in a discriminatory manner.
The Calvary Chapel of Ukiah, Calvary Chapel Fort Bragg, and River of Life Church say that the governor’s ban violates the northern California churches’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech and due process.
Coronavirus cases in California began to spike at the end of June, and by July 7 the state recorded 11,700 cases in a single day. On July 1, Newsom banned singing and chanting during indoor church services but permitted the same activities in other contexts in the same counties, say the plaintiffs, who call the action a “worship ban.”
Newsom had previously allowed houses of worship to resume services several weeks earlier on May 25. On July 13, as cases of the virus continued to increase, Newsom imposed restrictions again on church services as well as businesses including indoor restaurants, gyms, and hair salons.
“Places of worship must therefore discontinue indoor singing and chanting activities” as well as limit indoor attendance at church services to 25 percent of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower, California’s health guidance now reads.
The lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of California, names Newsom as a defendant as well as California’s Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell and the public health officers for Mendocino and Butte Counties. The churches are represented by American Center for Law and Justice, including attorney Jay Sekulow, who served as lead outside counsel to President Trump during his impeachment trial.
The plaintiffs describe themselves in the lawsuit as evangelical Christian churches with “sincerely held religious beliefs” who are “committed to the teachings of the Bible” and for whom “singing and praying aloud as a body of Christ is an integral part of worship.”
More from The Hill:
The churches say the order unfairly targets places of worship, over other institutions, after the governor supported protests over George Floyd’s death and police brutality that included chanting during the pandemic.
“Despite the ongoing and even increasing restrictions on the protected First Amendment rights to freely assemble and engage in religious exercise as it relates to places of worship, Newsom has been unwavering in his support of massive protests in California,” the lawsuit said.
In recent weeks, public health officials and medical professionals have pointed to evidence that suggests that talking and increased ventilation — two functions that occur when singing — increase germ particles in the air. The officials suggest that these particles, that could contain COVID-19, can linger in the air for a time and be ingested, possibly causing infection.
The lawsuit comes as more legal battles challenging the coronavirus restrictions on places of worship have been denied by judges, who rule the state has more authority during the public health emergency, The Sacramento Bee reported.
The lawyers argued that singing and praying aloud “is an integral part of worship for believers” and cited scripture that instructs followers to sing.
Jordan Sekulow, the executive director of the ACLJ, criticized the order, calling it an “unconstitutional abuse of power.”
“And to do it in the name of a pandemic is despicable,” he said in a statement. “This ban is clearly targeted at religion. It is clearly a violation of the First Amendment and a direct violation of religious liberty.”
ACLJ worked with Tyler & Bursch, The National Center for Law and Policy and Advocates for Faith & Freedom as the churches’ legal team. Several of these attorneys challenged Newsom’s past orders affecting places of worship during the pandemic.
Robert Tyler of Tyler & Bursch added, “Let me be clear, the State does not have the jurisdiction to ban houses of worship from singing praises to God.”
“Since the initiation of the lockdown, restrictive mandates in the state’s health orders have been applied to houses of worship unfairly and much more aggressively than other businesses arbitrarily deemed essential, including restaurants and other gatherings,” a press release from ACLJ reads.
Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The governor announced on Monday that all bars and indoor operations of restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, family entertainment venues, zoos, museums and card rooms would shut down statewide.
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He also declared that 30 counties on a watch list would be required to close fitness centers, places of worship, offices for “Non-Critical Sectors,” personal care services, hair salons, barber shops and malls."
Newsom's general treatment of places of worship across all faiths is just part of a broader attack on the 1st Amendment that Governors and local governments have been conducting for months now.
There is no restriction on mob violence, but spreading joy through song has been targeted for removal.
Hopefully the court in California will do its Constitutional duty and provide the churches a win against this religious suppression in the state.