NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Bishop defends church's lawsuit against Newsom, officials over stay-at-home order

South Bay Pentecostal Church
Posted at 6:00 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 23:37:07-04

CHULA VISTA (KGTV) -- A Chula Vista church leader is defending his church’s decision to sue Governor Newsom and other government officials over closing in-person church services.

The lawsuit states the governor’s orders are dismissing the religious rights of its citizens. Churches are included in Stage 3 of reopening.

The South Bay United Pentecostal Church is livestreaming its services online, but senior pastor Bishop Arthur Hodges said it is not the same.

“People in our communities rely on churches for their mental well-being, their emotional well-being, the spiritual wellbeing, their physical wellbeing,” Hodges said. “When it comes to reopening society, we're put last in line. That's the opposite of what it should be."

Their lawsuit states worship is protected under the First Amendment.

“Defendants have no compelling justification for their discriminatory treatment of churches and pastors and people of faith,” the complaint said.

Hodges, whose daughter is a nurse, said he is not downplaying the pandemic. He said he’s had two close friends—with no known underlying conditions—pass away from COVID-19.

“I'll be the first one to say, this thing is real. We're not saying this is a hoax,” Hodges said. “We're saying this is real. This is serious. We also have to be real about everything else in life and balance things out, and churches have got to be part of that balance."

Attorney Charles LiMandri said there is a telephone hearing later this week to decide whether to grant the temporary restraining order to open churches in California this weekend. If it is denied, LiMandri said they will appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

If their lawsuit is successful, Hodges said they are working on possibilities for a minimal opening.

“We're willing to tell people to wear your masks. We'll do spatial separation. We'll do everything the CDC requires, everything county requires — and we'll go beyond that,” Hodges said.