California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday lifted location and capacity limits on places of worship in response to five U.S. Supreme Court decisions that his shelter-in-place orders were unconstitutional.
The lift on church restrictions was effective immediately, state officials announced on its COVID-19 portal on April 12.
Three of the Supreme Court’s five rulings centered around lawsuits filed by the Center for American Liberty, the first of which was filed the day after Easter last year when the state and several California counties (including Colusa County) expanded the state’s stay-at-home order banning travel, including travel to church for drive-in services.
Colusa County was not specifically named in the lawsuit, but the Public Health Officer’s expanded order went into effect at 11:59 PM on April 10, 2020, the Friday before Easter, despite unchanged COVID-19 cases in the community and no hospitalizations.
In response to the initial lawsuit, Newsom reversed his decision and declared in early May that drive-in worship was an essential service, although he continued to ban or limit church attendance, which prompted four additional lawsuits on grounds that the orders were arbitrary and unconstitutional.
In the most recent ruling, the Supreme Court on Friday shot down California’s regulation that limited religious worship at home, stating that the rule again violated First Amendment protections of religion.
In response to the recent judicial rulings, state officials announced Monday that location and capacity limits on places of worship were no longer mandatory, although they were still recommended.
“Governor Newsom should have done this a long time ago,” said CEO and Founder of the Center for American Liberty, Harmeet K. Dhillon, in a statement. “For over a year, the state of California has targeted the faith community for discriminatory treatment depriving them of their fundamental right to worship. It shouldn’t make a decision from the Supreme Court, much less five decisions, for Gov. Newsom to realize that what he has been doing is unconstitutional.”