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California megachurch says it has a 'biblical mandate' to meet after Supreme Court decision

The pastor of a California megachurch said Sunday that his community has a “biblical mandate” to gather for services indoors in defiance of state health orders, citing last week’s Supreme Court decision that barred New York authorities from enforcing some limits on the number of people gathering in houses of worship. 

While addressing his congregation, Greg Fairrington read the opinion of Justice Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchConservative justices split in ruling for immigrant fighting deportation Top GOP super PAC endorses Murkowski amid primary threat Trump-era grievances could get second life at Supreme Court MORE

“There is no world in which the Constitution tolerates a color-coded executive edict that opens liquor stores ... and bike shops but shutters churches,” Fairrington said, reading the opinion from his cell phone, according to The Sacramento Bee

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Fairrington then reportedly told those gathered at Destiny Church in Rocklin, Calif., “The Supreme Court of the United States of America — yeah! We have a biblical mandate and First Amendment rights!”

The local outlet reported that the congregation, which was gathered closely together, erupted in cheers. 

California’s current health order mandates the closure of several indoor businesses in counties in the purple, or highest tier, meaning the area has more than 7 COVID-19 new daily cases per 100,000 people. This includes indoor religious services. 

Placer County, where Destiny Church is located, is currently one of the several California counties under the purple designation. 

However, the restrictions imposed by California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomWhy Caitlyn Jenner should not be dismissed San Francisco lawmakers vote to make home of city's first legally married same-sex partners a landmark Woman charged with starting fire that burned 63,000 acres in California MORE (D) have received increased pushback following the Supreme Court decision on New York’s orders. 

In a 5-4 ruling last week, the majority ruled in favor of Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, who argued that New York's caps on the number of people who could attend services in designated coronavirus hot spots violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. They said that the orders are more restrictive than on other facilities.

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The day after the decision, Fairrington told ABC’s Sacramento affiliate station, KXTV, that it was a win for the First Amendment. 

"I've never downplayed the virus. I realize it's real and people are getting it and getting sick, but we as American citizens have a First Amendment right," Fairrington said. "America is a great nation because we have liberty."

On Monday, a federal judge in Sacramento ordered both sides in a Lodi, Calif., church’s lawsuit against Newsom to submit additional legal arguments about the potential impact of the New York case.

Capital Christian Center, one of the Sacramento area’s largest churches, is also considering whether it can reopen for in-person attendance following the Supreme Court ruling. 

“We are taking a fresh look,” the church’s chief operations officer, Jason Batt, told The Sacramento Bee. “We’re reading the ruling in depth.” 

He added that while Capital Christian believes it “can safely host in-person services,” the church is also seeking input from state and local health officials.

As of Tuesday, California has recorded a total of 1,225,189 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 19,211 fatalities. The state saw more than 12,000 newly reported infections on Tuesday alone, along with 70 new deaths as a result of the virus.