Supreme Court Sides With California Church Challenging COVID Restrictions

California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) / Getty Images
December 4, 2020

The Supreme Court on Thursday took the side of a California church challenging the state's coronavirus restrictions, drawing on last week's ruling against New York's restrictions.

The church argued in the emergency application that California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) discriminated against religious services by prohibiting indoor religious gatherings while allowing other indoor secular gatherings to proceed and turning a blind eye to massive outdoor protests. It also said that Newsom's dinner at a posh Napa Valley restaurant showed that even the governor disregards his own restrictions on indoor gatherings.

The Supreme Court's order returns the case to an appeals court with instructions to draw on the High Court's ruling against New York's coronavirus restrictions. In that ruling, the Court sided with a coalition of Orthodox Jewish groups by blocking New York governor Andrew Cuomo's (D.) restrictions on religious gatherings.

Harvest Rock Church, a Pentecostal church based in Pasadena, Calif., and Harvest International Ministry, which oversees several churches in the state, brought the legal challenge.

"For the Governor, COVID-19 restrictions are apparently optional and penalty free," lawyers for the church wrote. "But for Churches or anyone worshipping in their own home with someone who does not live there, COVID-19 restrictions are mandatory and enforced via criminal penalties."

California attorney general Xavier Becerra responded with a filing arguing that churches were being treated the same as other indoor services.

The decision bodes well for other churches' legal cases in the state, as Harvest Rock is just one of several challenging Newsom's coronavirus restrictions. Grace Community Church and a Catholic priest overseeing several California churches have also taken state leaders to court.