A settlement reached by a local church and Gov. Gavin Newsom allows an injunction against COVID-19 restrictions on churches.
Harvest Rock Church has been battling in court for an injunction against Gov. Gavin Newsom since summer.
Under the settlement, California may no longer impose discriminatory restrictions upon houses of worship. The governor must also pay $1,350,000 to reimburse attorney’s fees and costs.
“Although Defendant continues to dispute Plaintiffs’ claims, Defendant as well as Plaintiffs wish to resolve this matter now and hereby consent to entry of judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, and to entry of a permanent injunction and order of dismissal,” according to a court document.
Newsom lifted restrictions on churches last month on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
“Location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory, but are strongly recommended,” according to guidance issued on April 13.
The guidance also said the changes were “in response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately.”
Days earlier the Supreme Court ruled that the state cannot enforce restrictions on at-home Bible studies.
In the 5-4 ruling, the conservative judges sided against the restrictions while Chief John Roberts sided with the three liberal justices.
“California’s Blueprint System contains myriad exceptions and accommodations for comparable activities, thus requiring the application of strict scrutiny,” the order reads. “And historically, strict scrutiny requires the State to further ‘interests of the highest order’ by means ‘narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.’”
In late March, lawyers for the Pasadena church once again filed for an emergency injunction by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth District against the restrictions.
That filing came after a judge asked for information about the guidelines, but declined to lift them.
“Plaintiffs have scratched and clawed for lasting relief for 259 days, and this Court should issue an injunction pending appeal against the Governor’s continued imposition of discriminatory restrictions on religious worship services while exempting myriad secular gatherings from any restrictions whatsoever and permitting other nonreligious gatherings and industries to meet with more favorable capacity restrictions than those imposed on Appellants’ religious worship services,” states a brief filed on April 2.
On a 6-3 vote in February, the Supreme Court cited the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion and ruled that the church could open its doors to 200 members in the orange tier, but regulations upheld prohibitions against singing and chanting.