Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court approved a California church’s petition for injunctive relief from the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on in-person worship gatherings. The high court’s order vacates a September ruling against the church by a district court.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom initially ordered houses of worship to be closed completely in March as part of a broad stay-at-home directive. Some restrictions were lifted in the spring, but new curbs were introduced in July, which was when Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church, along with its Harvest International Ministry, first sued the governor.
The state’s current plan imposes county-specific limits based on the number of COVID-19 cases, which means houses of worship in the worst-hit areas cannot hold indoor gatherings.
Harvest Rock Church accused Newsom of religious discrimination because he hasn’t applied the same standards and capacity limits to warehouses, big-box centers, shopping malls, liquor stores, fitness centers and museums.
In the brief order with no noted dissents, the justices remanded the case to a lower court for further consideration in light of last week’s decision in which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on houses of worship were ruled unconstitutional.
“[This] ruling by the Supreme Court provides great relief for churches and places of worship,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represented Harvest. “The handwriting is now on the wall. The final days of Governor Gavin Newsom’s ‘color-coded executive edicts’ banning worship are numbered and coming to an end. It is past time to end these unconstitutional restrictions on places of worship.”
Above: Churchgoers wear masks and social distance while attending mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles on June 7.
Photo: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes