COVID-19 limitations on churches and houses of worship in California have been formally halted by a California district court.
The permanent injunction states:
"It is hereby ORDERED that Defendant, Gavin Newsom, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of California, all State officers, agents, employees, and all other persons in active concert or participation with him, are hereby permanently enjoined state-wide from issuing or enforcing regulations issued in connection with the COVID-19 State of Emergency declared on March 4, 2020."
According to Newsmax, Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena and Harvest International Ministry are also involved in the litigation. It happened after the state banned indoor religious services, as well as other indoor activities like as eating and going to the movies, in its "Tier 1" zones, which included the majority of the state, last year.
California government will also be responsible for $1.3 million in legal expenses as part of the settlement.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom's prohibition on indoor church services, which included in-home Bible study groups, was contested in court by the churches.
California pastors voiced their dissatisfaction, questioning why small Bible study sessions are not permitted while all other minor events, marketplaces, and businesses are allowed.
Newsom's restriction on indoor church services was deemed unlawful by Harvest Rock Church and its members.
The congregants had asked the court to impose an injunctive relief, allowing them to gather in person without fear of state repercussions.
"While the Governor has unilaterally and significantly restricted the number of individuals permitted to 'gather' in Plaintiffs' churches, he has imposed no similar restrictions on the untold thousands of protesters who have gathered all over throughout California cities with no threat of criminal sanction, and no social distancing or restrictions whatsoever," the original complaint filed last year stated. And, the Governor explicitly encouraged such large gatherings of protesters while condemning churches for [singing] hymns in their churches."
Newsom said in July 2020 that houses of worship might resume indoor services with a restricted capacity of 25%. To assist reduce the transmission of respiratory droplets that might carry coronavirus, he issued an order forbidding singing.
He indicated that those counties suffering a spike in coronavirus infections should discontinue gathering within two weeks after allowing indoor worship to resume.
According to Pasadena Now, Newsom loosened limitations on churches last month.
A encouraging development given that the Pasadena prosecutor went so far as to threaten the church and Pastor Ché Ahn with "daily criminal charges and fines to the pastor, the church, staff and parishioners, saying each criminal charge would be punishable by up to one year in prison." in September last year.
In its legal battle, Harvest Rock Church was defended by Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy firm for religious liberty, Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel noted that before filing the lawsuit, they addressed a letter to Gov. Newsom and his attorney general requesting that the discriminatory rulings against churches be rescinded and that the Constitution be followed.
But Newsom took the difficult route. Instead of shifting direction after each Supreme Court win, he stubbornly refused to heed the appeal.
LC filed substantial filings in the trial court, argued twice, additional volumes in the Court of Appeals, argued twice, three emergency moves and three emergency petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court.
They "lost" at first, at nearly every step, but prevailed at the Supreme Court.
"This is a momentous day for churches in America," Pastor Ché Ahn remarked in a statement. After nearly a yearlong battle defending our religious freedoms, our lawsuit has reached a permanent settlement in our favor.
"I am thrilled to see the complete reversal of the last discriminatory restrictions against churches in California, knowing this case will act as a precedent, not only in our state, but also in our nation. We are incredibly grateful to our attorney Mat Staver and to Liberty Counsel for their relentless support and fierce determination. Most of all, we give all the glory to God for moving mightily in this historic season."