SAN FRANCISCO (Los Angeles Times) — An appeals court has upheld California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on in-person church services amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The split ruling found that government’s emergency powers override what in normal times would be fundamental constitutional rights.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that South Bay United Pentecostal Church in San Diego cannot reopen immediately. The judges in the majority wrote that the state can use unusual powers as it deals with a “contagious and often fatal disease.”
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The decision is likely to further anger opponents who claim that California’s rules violate religious freedoms.
Gov. Newsom said last week that guidance for churches to reopen was expected to be announced Monday.
More than 1,200 pastors and clergy from across California sent the governor a letter earlier this week saying they plan to resume in-person services May 31, regardless of state restrictions.
"We've been targeting May 31st, which is Pentecost Sunday, as a reopen for thousands of churches across California," said Arthur Hodges, Senior Pastor at South Bay United Pentecostal Church. "We will follow all protocols. We love our people we don't want to put them in harms way."