The Center for American Liberty, in conjunction with the Dhillon Law Group, Inc., on behalf of churches in San Bernardino County and Riverside County represented in Gish v. Newsom, filed an emergency application for a writ of injunction on Jan. 7, 2021 before the Honorable Elena Kagan at the United States Supreme Court and she demanded that Governor Newsom respond by 5 p.m. Jan. 13.
The emergency application for a writ of injunction comes after federal courts, for weeks, have ignored clear directives from the Supreme Court forbidding the disparate treatment of religious organizations through COVID-19 restrictions. This filing also follows a denial of injunctive relief, in this case, from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 23, 2020.
Citing recent cases such as Roman Catholic Diocese v. Cuomo, Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom, and others, the Center for American Liberty argues “California treats houses of worship with a harsher hand than secular businesses. With most of California under the strictest of lockdowns, many businesses are permitted to operate at reduced capacity and some without any limitations at all. Houses of worship, though, must remain closed for in-person services,” the writ states.
“Under those rulings, Christians in New York and other states may worship freely, especially during the holiday season, so long as they and the churches they attend follow reasonable health guidelines such as sanitization and distancing. In contrast, Christians in California, and particularly the Applicants, are not permitted to follow the dictates of their conscience and worship together in person with their fellow Christians. Allowing California to continue discriminating on the basis of religion will cause an inequality nationwide, where the First Amendment applies in some states and Circuit Court jurisdictions, but not in others, such as the Ninth Circuit or the State of California.”
“After the Supreme Court enjoined Governor Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions that discriminated against houses of worship—primarily Jewish and Catholic communities—and vacated the federal district court’s ruling in Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom, it is an outrage to see Governor Newsom unapologetically continue to discriminate against houses of worship in California.” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, CEO of the Center for American Liberty. “If Californians can go to Costco, marijuana dispensaries, and malls, the State may not keep them out of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, gurdwaras, and other houses of worship. The First Amendment does not permit houses of worship to be treated as second class institutions.”
“This relentless discrimination against people of faith must end,” Dhillon said.
Background on Gish v. Newsom:
Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 on March 19, 2020, ordering all residents to “heed current State public health directives,” requiring all residents to stay at home. As a result, the State prohibited Californians from attending religious gatherings.
On April 13, 2020, plaintiffs filed a First Amendment lawsuit in Federal Court challenging the Governor’s Order. The following day, plaintiffs filed for a preliminary injunction seeking immediate relief. The district court denied plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.
This case is currently on appeal at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Plaintiff Gish is a member and attends a Christian church in San Bernardino County. Plaintiff Scales is a pastor in San Bernardino County. Plaintiffs Moffatt and Wood are both pastors in Riverside County.
All plaintiffs desire to participate in religious gatherings that employ social distancing and sanitization guidelines.
The Center for American Liberty is currently leading high-profile civil liberties litigation including: Givens v. Newsom, Brach v. Newsom, Ngo v. Rose City Antifa, and South Bay Pentecostal Church v. Newsom.
This article was released by the Center for American Liberty.