Alameda County, California is being sued in federal court after county officials punished a church that had gotten permission to hold a graduation ceremony.
Christian Cathedral, located in Oakland, brought the legal challenge after county health officials permitted --- then rescinded --- an in-person graduation ceremony for the church’s accredited school, Patten Academy.
Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute, the law firm representing Christian Cathedral, says the county pulled its permission for the graduation service after PJI demanded “fair and equal treatment” for the church, too.
According to Dacus, the church's pastor, Tobey Montgomery, sent a letter to county officials thanking them for allowing the school graduation and asking them to allow churches to meet using the same protocol after those officials permitted the graduation.
PJI asserts the church learned via email from Dr. Erica Pan, a public health officer, that the graduation ceremony was being rescinded.
That, Dacus insists, is a violation of the First Amendment rights of religious institutions.
"Case law clearly says that a government institution that decides to pull away rights, just to not have to allow a group to have their First Amendment religious freedom rights respected, is unconstitutional," he says. "They can't simply decide, after the fact, to remove the rights of everyone in order to discriminate on the rights of some.”
PJI filed suit Thursday, May 28 on behalf of Christian Cathedral.