The U.S. court of appeals upheld Gov. Gavin Newsom's coronavirus restrictions on indoor worship during the pandemic.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel determined that California's health orders on churches did not discriminate against the First Amendment. The majority of the court of appeals decided that health orders apply "the same restrictions to worship services as they do to other indoor congregate events, such as lectures and movie theaters.""Some congregate activities are completely prohibited in every county, such as attending concerts and spectating sporting events," the majority added.
Meanwhile, Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain dissented. "At present, in 18 counties in California - home to more than 15 million residents and including its most populous county, Los Angeles - indoor religious worship services are completely prohibited," Judge O'Scannlain said."California insists that this drastic measure is necessary to fight the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic - a worthy and indeed compelling goal of any state." O'Scannlain said before expressing dissent by reminding that those counties that completely prohibit religious worship also allow other businesses like malls, nail salons, laundromats to be open.
"While the virus does not discriminate between nonreligious and religious gatherings, Gov. Newsom does," Mat Staver, founder of the religious liberties group, Liberty Counsel, agreed with Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain in a statement. "We look forward to the next round at the Court of Appeals on the full merits of our request to block the 1st Amendment violations," Staver shared.
Pastor Sue Ahn from a Pasadena-based church persistently argued that the coronavirus restriction violates the first amendment."It violates our 1st Amendment rights and you know the state should not establish a religion but also not interfere with the preemptive exercise thereof."