California Governor Gavin Newsom finally bent a knee to the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion and admitted that he and his COVID rules are not bigger than Jesus Christ—or small houses of worship, for that matter.
It only took a year, millions of dollars in legal expenses, and people who put away their fear to fight the state and pray to their God at house church gatherings to change the law.
On Monday, Newsom and company ceased requiring location and capacity limitations on these churches.
In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended. The linked guidance is in the process of being updated. All other restrictions in the guidance remain in place.
The acting California attorney general officially issued the order Monday night.
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) April 13, 2021
What a waste. If Newsom had only done the right thing, respected the First Amendment of the Constitution in the first place, trusted people to do what is in their best interest – being safe and caring for themselves – things could have been much more copasetic in this horrid pandemic time.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4, in a decision released shortly before midnight, that churches should be allowed to meet in this pandemic.
Related: California Senate Committee Votes to Make it Easier to Dox Citizens Who Sign Recall Petitions
The high court reminded the 9th Circuit and California’s Governor Newsom that they cannot treat churches and religious gatherings differently than businesses like Costco, Walmart, or the swap meet.
PJ Media colleague Tyler O’Neill reported hours after the per curium decision was handed down that Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the predictably liberal wing of the court.
This marked the fifth time the Court “has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise,” the Court noted. “California’s Blueprint System contains myriad exceptions and accommodations for comparable activities, thus requiring the application of strict scrutiny.”
While the Court issued an unsigned “Per Curiam” decision, four justices dissented: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer. Roberts said he would not grant the injunction, while Kagan wrote a dissent, with which Sotomayor and Breyer joined. In other words, former President Donald Trump’s conservative Supreme Court majority saved these in-home gatherings from the leftist justices, along with Roberts.
Separate public interest law firms such the Thomas More Society, Chuck Limandri’s Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, and Harmeet Dhillon’s Center for American Liberty worked together to get Newsom to relent on the churches.
Megachurches have been shuttered and fearful throughout the state because of Newsom’s diktats. Other churches have gone to court and won. Others have met anyway. The upshot has been that people have been worse off mentally and spiritually because of the closures.
Related: California Governor Gavin Newsom Announces That Someday His State Will Re-Open. Maybe. Until Then, the Catastrophe Continues
Dhillon told PJ Media in an emailed statement that Newsom should have opened all churches long ago.
Governor Newsom should have done this a long time ago. For over a year, the state of California has targeted the faith community for discriminatory treatment depriving them of their fundamental right to worship. It shouldn’t take a decision from the Supreme Court, much less five decisions, for Gov. Newsom to realize that what he has been doing is unconstitutional.
Today’s decision is incredibly gratifying for my colleagues and I at the Center for American Liberty who have been zealously advocating, on behalf of courageous Californians seeking the full restoration of the First Amendment,” Dhillon said. “While we celebrate the lifting of restrictions today, our work is not done. We will not relent until we have sufficient precedent from the courts prohibiting this civil liberties crisis from ever happening again.
Dhillon told the Thomas More Society’s Jenna Ellis that Newsom should have known that First Amendment rights to religious expression are given greater protection.
In fact, the first amendment gives greater protection to worship. SCOTUS [The Supreme Court] enjoined California from restricting houses of worship reduced as applied to at-home meetings consider this: since this pandemic began religion has never been considered essential. In this time of crisis faith is most important.
It’s unconscionable that the state has seen fit to put itself on top of religion.
The fight isn’t over, the state still has restrictions on houses of worship and we’re going to keep fighting to put an end to all of them.
It’s just a reminder that we are one judge away at any point and millions of dollars had to be spent to achieve today’s result.
.@pnjaban Harmeet Dhillon explains the significance of Friday’s SCOTUS opinion for religious freedom. Today, CA revised its unconstitutional, over-broad, and discriminatory health order to remove the capacity limits on churches. @Liberty_Ctr and @ThomasMoreSoc will keep fighting! pic.twitter.com/D6Ph98c0j4
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) April 13, 2021
Newsom was planning to open up more California institutions in a limited way later in the month. But it’s unlikely he would have bowed to the Constitution were it not for these civil rights law firms.
Dhillon said the victory also points up something else: how tenuous our freedoms are.
It’s only after we got Justice Barret on the bench that we began to see the tides turning.
So what this means is when you see the current push to pack the court, or for a justice to resign so that President Joe Biden can appoint a successor, you see all the religious liberties we’ve been talking about here as well as other fundamental constitutional rights at risk.
So that is why the Left is fighting so hard to water down and adulterate our Supreme Court. It is why when we are selecting justices that we have to be vigilant as conservatives and why the advice and consent role of the senate is important as well.
The Supreme Court has been viewed as somewhat hostile to religion and treating the religious liberties aspect of the first amendment as somehow less protected and almost as a subordinate right to the right to protest, right to petition the government, right of the press.
This decision on Friday was considered by scholars as really reversing the tide of that second class status of religion under the first amendment.
Dhillon says they won’t stop fighting until it’s clear, through judicial precedent, to Newsom and other state leaders, that civil liberties don’t die … even in a pandemic.