As 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic turns from a health scare into an all-out suspension of individual human rights, Americans are pushing back harder and harder.
On July 13 a group representing churches in Riverside County, Calif. targeted Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order that once again bans indoor services at houses of worship based on a rising number of coronavirus cases, which might in fact be due to more widespread testing. According to a report by NBC Palm Springs, Advocates for Faith & Freedom is arguing that religious observance is “paramount” in times of stress and danger, and is signaling that churches in defiance of Newsom’s order would have their legal support.
No limits have been placed on widespread Black Lives Matter protests.
“The state’s actions today impose another significant setback to the desperately needed social services that are provided by religious organizations,” said attorney Robert Tyler of the Murrieta-based Advocates. “We have (a) mental health crisis that is just as significant as COVID-19. Many churches and synagogues will now be forced to shutter their support groups, counseling and humanitarian relief.”
Along with houses of worship, Newsom’s dictate applies to restaurants, gyms, malls and similar facilities, which must cease all indoor operations but are allowed limited outdoor activities.
In late May Newsom relaxed public health restrictions to permit indoor religious services after more than two months of legal sparring and several successful, high-profile challenges to restrictions on worship services in other states, at the federal level. The governor insisted on social distancing and a 100-person cap on gatherings. Some pastors vowed to ignore the size limits in favor of serving the needs of their parishioners.
Incredibly, on July 1 the California Department of Public Health (through the governor) banned chanting or singing occur during worship services because of the risk of viral transmission.