California’s liberal governor has backtracked over restrictions for church gatherings but added several questionable restrictions, and a religious liberty attorney says the First Amendment has the final say in the matter.
Responding to President Donald Trump's support for churches to immediately reopen because they are “essential,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (pictured at right) announced draconian rules that include no congregational singing and limiting building capacity to 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is less.
“At the same time we have shopping malls opening up and down the state packed with people,” says Pacific Justice Institute attorney Brad Dacus, “the governor expects churches to be greatly limited on their ability to function.”
Newsom was no doubt aware that hundreds of congregations are vowing to meet this Sunday, May 31, after witnessing the state government put them in “Stage 3” behind childcare facilities, retail businesses, schools, and manufacturing plants.
According to Dacus, many churches are holding services in The Golden State this coming Sunday.
“Some of them will be in cities and counties that have said, Go ahead and open. It's totally fine with us, and they're going to be fairly safe,” he says. "Others are going to open up in areas where they do not have authorization, and so they're going to be under the restrictions of this governor."
According to Jeremy Dys, an attorney with First Liberty Institute, the current conflict comes from liberal governors holding a “shallow view” of religious liberty, which means Americans have the “freedom to worship” in a building or to keep their religious views confined to the home.
But the First Amendment and the “Free Exercise” clause, Dys says, guarantee much more than that.
“That has been exposed for what it is,” Dys told the Todd Starnes Show,” an absolutely discriminatory way to govern, and an unfair one, and it is not going to be contemplated by the Constitution.”
First Liberty has published a one-page document to help churches who are facing lockdowns and other restrictions.
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