Judge rejects attempt by three California churches to hold services despite stay-at-home order

Judge rejects attempt by three California churches to hold services despite stay-at-home order
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A Los Angeles judge denied a request by three southern California churches to continue holding in-person services during the coronavirus pandemic.

In his ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal denied the request for a temporary restraining order against Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia governor Newsom signs bill extending family leave to small businesses California family frustrated that governor, Harris used fire-damaged property for 'photo opportunity' Pac-12 moves toward 'return to competition' after Big Ten announces resumption of football season MORE (D) by Shield of Faith Family Church, Word of Life Ministries International and Church Unlimited.

Bernal rejected the argument that Newsom’s stay-at-home orders violated their first amendment rights to freedom of religion and freedom of assembly, The Associated Press reported.

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“During the state of emergency the executive powers are in effect, in that they are empowered to provide for emergency remedies which may infringe on fundamental constitutional rights,” Bernal said in a hearing Wednesday, according to the AP. He said a formal opinion is forthcoming.

Harmeet Dhillon, national committeewoman of the Republican National Committee for California and CEO of the Center for American Liberty, argued churches have been singled out while other businesses such as grocery stores have remained open as essential businesses. She argued that, for some, church services are equally as essential.

Deputy Attorney General Todd Grabarsky countered that similar restrictions have been imposed on other gatherings, including court hearings.

In a series of tweets Wednesday night Dhillon said that citizens should “count on more restrictions on all your civil rights in California with no end in sight, if this is the reasoning courts will be applying.”

James Dean Moffatt, the pastor of Church Unlimited, has been fined $1,000 for allegedly violating the stay-at-home order, which he claimed infringes on his belief “that scripture commands him as a pastor to lay hands on people and pray for them," which he cannot do without in-person services.

Last week, the Merced County, California, Sheriff’s Office issued a citation to a local pastor, alleging he hid dozens of parishioners inside his church while their cars were hidden from sight.