Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom was ordered by a federal judge to pay a $1.35 million settlement to a Los Angeles-area church in his capacity as governor because of the state’s onerous lockdown rules against houses of worship.
In addition to paying Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena, California, U.S. District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal also ruled that state restrictions on houses of worship would be permitted only if child infections rose 100%, statewide cases are at least 26 per 100,000 people, or available ICU hospital bed capacity falls below 20%, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Any new public health precautions on religious worship services and gatherings at places of worship not in the guidance [are included],” Bernal ruled.
The ruling marks the first statewide permanent injunction against COVID-19 restrictions on houses of worship in the country.
Mat Staver, who is the founder of the nonprofit law firm Liberty Counsel, which represented Harvest Rock Church, described Newsom as “the worst governor in America” when it comes to religious liberty.
“The church stayed open [during the lockdown], and the pastor and parishioners were threatened with daily criminal charges that were up to a year in prison,” Staver said.
“Gov. Newsom’s COVID restrictions intentionally discriminated against churches while providing preferential treatment to many secular businesses and gatherings,” Staver added. “What’s important is this ruling is permanent. He cannot ever do this again.”
California’s lockdown began March 19, 2020, and permitted only essential businesses to remain open, which did not include houses of worship. He later allowed churches to open at 25% capacity if the number of congregants remained fewer than 100 people, but instituted another lockdown last summer that lasted until April for much of the state.
Newsom also drew national attention last year when Pastor John MacArthur and the elders of the prominent Grace Community Church in Los Angeles chose to defy state and local restrictions by resuming worship services. Citing Christ and the Bible as the ultimate authority over his congregation, MacArthur wrote in a lengthy blog post replete with Scripture that “we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”
Newsom’s office defended him in a recent statement to Newsweek, which said: “Gov. Newsom has always put the health and well-being of Californians first, resulting in the lowest positivity rates in the country and over 35 million shots in arms — more than any other state. This settlement resolves this case while providing clarity and certainty to the public around the public health standards applicable to places of worship following recent rulings by the US Supreme Court.”
The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.