The Rancho Santa Fe-based Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund filed an emergency motion Saturday morning with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of South Bay United Pentecostal Church seeking an injunction to block Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to temporarily stop in-person church services.
The motion was filed after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to deny the Chula Vista church’s request for an emergency injunction late Friday night.
“Gov. Newsom would apparently rather litigate this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court than allow a single Californian to go to church,” said Charles LiMandri, chief litigation counsel for the Defense Fund, who said the motion was also filed on behalf of Bishop Arthur Hodges III.
“Under the governor’s edicts, Bishop Hodges can bump shoulders with congregants at a shopping mall, but he can’t minister to them in a safe and sanitary church sanctuary,” LiMandri’s statement continued. “That is blatant religious discrimination, and we hope the Supreme Court agrees.”
The South Bay church’s argument against the stay-at-home order isn’t unique. Dozens of religious leaders, with the support of President Donald Trump, have asked governors to allow them to reopen their doors. However, public health experts argue that church gatherings could result in more outbreaks where worshippers sit indoors for long periods.
California churches, as well as other gathering places, were forced to temporarily close in early March in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus that has killed nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. alone. In San Diego County, there have been 6,559 reported cases and 249 reported deaths related to the COVID-19 disease.