Three California churches are suing Governor Newsom for his recent ban on “singing” in houses of worship. A major component to the lawsuit is Newsom’s refusal to ban chants or similar verbal expressions at protests or other scenarios that include mass gatherings.
It appears that respiratory droplets are only COVID-laced in worship services, even with social distancing in place, but not in the shoulder-to-shoulder BLM protests that Newsom has enthusiastically supported.
To be fair, it could be argued that we should assume that Newsom’s guidelines apply to other gatherings, given the intent of his ban, even if he hasn’t technically said so. However, this argument falls flat when we consider how many opportunities Newsom has had to clarify his intent but opted out of doing so – while openly showing support for gatherings that are far more likely to spread of COVID-laced droplets.
Calvary Chapel of Ukiah, Calvary Chapel of Fort Bragg, and River of Life Church in Oroville are all listed as plaintiffs in the case, with Newsom and three medical officials listed as defendants.
Jay Sekulow, a conservative pundit who also serves as one of President Trump’s personal attorneys, is the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. The ACLJ is among the team of law firms representing the churches, joined by Advocates for Faith and Freedom, and the National Center for Law & Policy.
Sekulow tweeted a petition that the ACLJ started for viewers to show their support:
“The ACLJ has just filed a lawsuit challenging the state of California’s ban on singing and chanting activities in places of worship on behalf of several churches. Banning singing in California churches is an unconstitutional abuse of power.”
Last night, we filed a lawsuit to challenge the state of California’s ban on singing in worship services. We're dedicated to overturning this unconstitutional abuse of power & infringement on religious liberty. Show your support – sign our petition today. https://t.co/K2wEpf65xq
— Jay Sekulow (@JaySekulow) July 16, 2020
The lawsuit identifies the hypocrisy in restrictive standards implemented by Newsom:
“Since singing and chanting are allowed at other secular gatherings, for example, public protests, Defendants must, therefore, permit Plaintiffs to engage in equivalent constitutionally-protected activities.”
“Despite the ongoing and even increasing restrictions on the protected First Amendment rights to freely assemble and engage in religious exercise as it relates to places of worship, Newsom has been unwavering in his support of massive protests in California.”
Sekulow argued in another tweet that Newsom’s ban is unconstitutional:
The ACLJ has just filed a lawsuit challenging the state of California’s ban on singing and chanting activities in places of worship on behalf of several churches. Banning singing in California churches is an unconstitutional abuse of power.
The lawsuit is not the first of its kind in California. In April 2020, three other churches sued Newsom for similar reasons. Church Unlimited in Indio, Shield of Faith Family Church in Fontana, and Word of Life Ministries International in Riverside all joined in a lawsuit against Newsom’s stay-at-home order.
The churches collective argument was that they are able to hold services in-person while exercising health precautions, thus they should not be restricted from gathering.
John Wesley Reid is a Washington D.C. – based journalist and political commentator. A native of southern California, John studied political science at Biola University after serving in the Marine Corps. His favorite past times are studying theology, running, playing Skipbo, traveling, and dropping the classiest of puns.