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Priest overseeing San Diego mission granted temporary relief from COVID-19 restrictions

Posted at 7:02 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 22:02:44-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – A catholic priest overseeing a mission in San Diego has been granted temporary relief from the state's COVID-19 restrictions on in-person worship.

On Friday, ABC 10News spoke to the attorney representing Father Trevor Burfitt in his legal fight to reopen his Southern California parishes, including St. John Bosco Mission inside the Four Points Sheraton hotel off the 163 and Aero Drive.

On Thursday, a Kern County judge issued a preliminary injunction protecting Father Burfitt's churches from COVID-19 restrictions but the ruling does not apply to all churches in the state.

“Under the existing blueprint for a safer economy, all of [his] churches are subject or were subject to a total worship ban until the court's ruling yesterday,” said attorney Christopher Ferrara. He added, “That ruling has overturned those restrictions and the churches are now free to operate.”

On Friday, San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said that he supported the ruling and added in part, “I think and I always have thought that churches are essential, particularly in these times of high anxiety with having to deal with COVID.”

The new ruling stems from a recent lawsuit that Father Burfitt filed against Governor Gavin Newsom and other state and local officials over lockdown measures.

The judge ruled in part, "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the first amendment's guarantee of religious liberty. Before allowing this to occur, we have a duty to conduct a serious examination of the need for such a drastic measure."

The ruling goes on to read in part, "The free exercise of religion clause in the California constitution prohibits defendants from treating religious activities worse than comparable secular activities. California's current COVID-related restrictions do exactly that."

“Right now, I would say that this decision provides guidance to the public authorities throughout the state and they should follow it,” added Ferrara.

Father Burfitt is seeking a permanent injunction. The next hearing is scheduled for March.

ABC 10News reached out to Gov. Newsom’s office for comment. We are waiting for a reply.