California churches sue governor to allow public worship services amid coronavirus

Three Southern California ecclesial communities have filed a lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom, alleging that social distancing orders he imposed amid COVID-19 violate their first amendment right to freedom of religion.

Newsom imposed a stay-at-home order for the state March 19, mandating that nonessential businesses close their doors and restricting gatherings. Newsom’s order does not list houses of worship as “essential.”

The Center for American Liberty, a California-based nonprofit, filed the suit April 13 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, as well as officials of San Bernardino and Riverside counties who imposed additional stay-at-home orders, are also named in the suit.

“If a Californian is able to go to Costco or the local marijuana shop or liquor store and buy goods in a responsible, socially distanced manner, then he or she must be allowed to practice their faith using the same precautions,” Harmeet Dhillon, chief executive of the Center for American Liberty, said in an April 13 statement.

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