Home / News / Church & Ministry / DOJ warns California over closing churches: “there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution”
california churches

DOJ warns California over closing churches: “there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has warned California Gov. Gavin Newsom that the state’s public health orders may be discriminatory against churches.

In a letter on May 19 the DOJ expressed “several” concerns over the state’s health orders, enacted to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Democrat Newsom’s stay-at-home orders, which have been in place since March, have expressly prohibited large gatherings such as religious ceremonies, churches from remaining open and other religious activities. One community went so far as to ban live-streamed music by churches.

In a three-page letter, Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said that while he recognized the governor has a “duty to protect the health and safety of Californians,” he believes the restriction may show discrimination against religious communities.

Citing a past statement from U.S. Attorney Bill Barr which reads, “government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity,” Dreiband wrote, “Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.”

READ: Kansas City area church takes county to court over re-opening rules

Dreiband said that despite a pandemic “that is unprecedented in our lifetimes,” the California Constitution calls for the state to “do more to accommodate religious worship, including in Stage 2 of the Reopening Plan,” noting that “religion and religious worship continue to be central to the lives of millions of Americans.”

A spokesman for Newsom, asked for comment, said only that the governor’s office had received the DOJ letter.

California has one of the strictest stay-at-home orders still in place in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The governor’s four-stage plan allows each of California’s 58 counties to gradually open based on the number of tests, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, among other factors.

Newsom this week relaxed restrictions for some counties, making it easier for them to move toward reopening retail stores and restaurants for sit-down dining. He said the state was in discussions with major sports leagues about resuming play. But restrictions on California churches remain in place.

The governor also said some workers may begin returning to offices where working from home was not practical, including the entertainment industry in a list of businesses exempted from restrictions.

However, during a news briefing earlier this month, the governor expressed fears in allowing places of worship to open, stating that “congregations of people from far and wide coming together in a closed space at a large scale remains a point of concern and anxiety for us.” Newsom said he is working to establish “guidelines for physical distancing and working with faith leaders talking about unique conditions in their own facilities. Nothing is etched in stone.”

In its letter to Newsom this week, the DOJ said the state has failed to show “why interactions in offices and studios of the entertainment industry, and in-person operations to facilitate nonessential e-commerce, are included on the list as being allowed with social distancing where telework is not practical, while gatherings with social distancing for purposes of religious worship are forbidden, regardless of whether remote worship is practical or not.”

–EpochTimes and wire services

Can You Help?

With events and churches cancelling services, the advertising that Metro Voice relies on for support is ending. For 31 years, Metro Voice has been a leader in the faith-based community. We have historically relied on advertising to fund the mission of our publication and sharing the Good News. We are now seeking donation partners who want to support our publication and our mission of faith-based journalism.

Do you like what you read here? Help us continue our mission by supporting Metrovoicenews.com for as little as $1. Every contribution counts, big or small. We sincerely thank you for your continued support and encouragement in these critical times.

Ongoing Support


Monthly Giving



One-Time Gifts

 

X
X