Three California churches have filed a lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom over his state’s prohibiting singing in places of worship.
On Monday, Governor Newsom responded to an uptick in his state’s total COVID-19 cases by reimplementing an array of lockdown measures and mandatory closures. Though not quite as stringent as the lockdown rules instituted during the novel coronavirus’s domestic onset – the governor likened his approach to “a dimmer switch, not an on and off switch” – the corresponding order called for the statewide closure of movie theaters, restaurants’ dine-in areas, bars (both indoor and outdoor), and more. Additionally, this latest series of lockdown requirements stipulated that counties placed on the “County Monitoring List” for three days in a row shut down their churches, gyms, salons, and tattoo parlors, to name some.
While the case’s plaintiffs – the Calvary Chapel Ukiah, the Calvary Chapel Fort Bragg, and the River of Life Church – are able to continue operations in their respective counties, they’re required by a recent California Department of Public Health order to “discontinue indoor singing and chanting activities.” Furthermore, the plaintiffs emphasized in the complaint that their county governments are requiring local establishments and individuals to abide by all state-mandated lockdown measures (including the singing ban), with those who violate the rules facing possible fines and/or jail time.
From there, it’s alleged that the singing ban violates the plaintiffs’ First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights because it singles out places of worship. To be sure, the legal filing noted towards its beginning: “The singing and chanting ban is only applicable to places of worship.”
The next portion of the complaint presented quotes of tweets and public statements offered by Governor Newsom in support of the protests that emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Predictably, the text made a point of reiterating that chanting and/or singing wasn’t prohibited at these functions, which members of the government endorsed. And in closing its arguments, the concise lawsuit stressed the role that religion (and especially singing) plays in the lives of the plaintiffs’ members: “To prohibit group singing and chanting is to effectively prohibit corporate Christian worship.”
At the time of this writing, Governor Newsom and the lawsuit’s other defendants (government health officials) hadn’t publicly commented on the matter. To date, California medical professionals have diagnosed approximately 365,000 COVID-19 cases, and nearly 7,500 residents have perished as a result of the disease’s complications.
Moments ago, Governor Newsom laid out a multitude of reopening guidelines and requirements for schools.