A major legal ruling has been handed down involving the first case to challenge the stay-at-home order issued by the Democratic governor of California affecting the faith community and religious gatherings.
On Monday night, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for Southern California churches and vacated lower-court rulings that denied faithful Californians the right to attend in-person worship services.
"This is the Gish v. Newsom case, where we are representing churches in San Bernardino and Riverside counties in California," says attorney Mark Trammell of the Center for American Liberty. "So, it's a big victory seeing the Supreme Court vacate and remand the case back to the district court with specific instruction on how to take the case moving forward."
The Center has been litigating this matter since April 2020.
"This is actually the first case to challenge Governor [Gavin] Newsom's stay-at-home order as it applies to the faith community and religious gatherings," Trammell continues.
The orders from Newsom defined religious institutions hosting live services as "non-essential." However, Harmeet Dhillon, chief executive order for the Center for American Liberty, said last year that the U.S. Constitution "does not allow for state officials to treat churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples as second-class 'non-essential organizations.'"
"Marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores, fast-food restaurants, laundromats, and numerous other businesses are allowed to operate, provided social distancing standards are satisfied," Dhillon continued. "The same should be true of houses of worship."
The Supreme Court's decision follows one late last week in which California churches were told they could have indoor services, albeit with limits on attendance, singing, and chanting.
"What the Supreme Court did was tell the district court that you need to take into account our analysis in South Bay United Pentecostal and apply it to this matter," Trammell explains. "They are different cases, but these are very similar and the same legal issues being challenged on a few different fronts."
The Center for American Liberty is co-counsel on the South Bay United Pentecostal case.