Justice Dept. Warns California: Church Ban Is Discriminatory, Violates Constitution

Friday, 22 May, 2020

According to California's Resilience Roadmap the state's reopening plan allows schools, restaurants, shopping malls, and some other high-occupancy facilities to reopen in Stage 2 - while religious services can not resume until Stage 3.The plan lists church services among "higher risk environments", such as movie theaters and sporting events.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday warned California's governor that his COVID-19 restrictions discriminated against places of worship by preventing them from meeting while businesses and film studios are allowed to carry on working.

State and local governments have differed over whether houses of worship must comply with social distancing rules.

San Diego County supervisors gave the go-ahead Tuesday for the county to accelerate its entrance into Stage 2 easing of coronavirus restrictions, which would allow retail shopping and restaurants to cater to in-person patrons while abiding by social distancing guidelines.

Newsom's strategy to cover that deficiency consists of uncomfortable cross the majority of federal government programs, consisting of public education and learning, environmental managements as well as state employee incomes.

That places an "unfair burden" on them that violates civil rights protections through "unequal treatment of faith communities", the letter said.

Newsom, the state attorney general and other parties were federally sued to stop further enforcement of the executive order barring in-person worship, but the proposed civil injunction was rejected by a U.S. District Court judge in Riverside, who declared that a public health threat takes precedence over arguments in favor of public gatherings, particularly when livestreaming and other options are available.

The letter says neither court decision addresses what distinguishes worship services from the reopenings of schools, restaurants or factories under Stage 2.

Rivas said he has been talking with the Governor's staff for several weeks and that talks have been "productive" and are ongoing. In his announcement, he said the next phase is "weeks, not months away".

Andrew Cuomo said he is encouraging major sports teams in the state to plan to reopen without fans. The letter noted other sectors of the economy had been deemed "essential" and were permitted to stay open during the pandemic. The U.S. bishops' conference has sent the doctors' document to bishops across the country to use as a resource in their reopening plans.

The letter from Dreiband and four USA attorneys from California cites a statement issued in April by Attorney General William P. Barr that argued that the government can not impose "special restrictions, quot; on religious activity".