Lawyers for a Pasadena church have once again filed for an emergency injunction by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals against the remaining restrictions on indoor religious services under the state’s health guidelines.
“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 Monday, Pasadena moved into the less restrictive orange tier of the state’s color-coded blueprint for recovery which allows 50% capacity inside churches, up from 25% last week.
On a 6-3 vote in February, the U.S. 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 remaining in place.
Last week, a federal judge ordered the state to explain its caps on worship services.
“The Supreme Court has expressed frustration — and I think rightfully so — about the lack of a developed record,” U.S. Judge Cynthia Bashant said. “What I’m interested in is the occupancy rate. If the state can’t show they’re treating churches the same or better than retail, I’m inclined to issue the preliminary injunction.”
Bashant scheduled the preliminary injunction and evidentiary hearing in that case for May 13.
This is the third time Harvest Rock has filed for an emergency injunction in the Ninth Circuit.
On Dec. 22, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal denied a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Newsom’s stay-at-home orders.
The church immediately appealed Bernal’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. When asked to explain exactly how California’s public health order unfairly targets the church, the Harvest Rock attorneys compared church gatherings to grocery stores and malls.
However, Bernal, according to an article appearing in
Courthouse News, said that movie theaters and concert halls were a more apt comparison.
Seth Goldstein, a California deputy attorney general, told Bernal at the time the state’s indoor gathering restrictions are neutral, backed by undisputed scientific evidence.
In October, Bernal ruled that the church’s right to free speech was not being violated and that Newsom’s order instead opposed where the speech was occurring.
“Nothing would prevent the Governor from reinstating the challenged restrictions tomorrow, which would be just another sacrifice of fundamental rights in the name of judicial modesty,” the brief states.