A permanent injunction recently issued against pandemic restrictions on religious gatherings imposed by California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom on the heels of a challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to inure to the benefit of churches all across the country who were subjected to similar limitations on their freedom to worship, as the Washington Examiner reports.
Legal action brought by the Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena reached the high court earlier this year, and in a 6-3 decision, the justices held that the church was free to have 200 congregants inside its facility, despite Newsom’s March, 2020 mandate that non-essential businesses – which included churches – close to in-person services altogether.
According to Fox News, as part of a settlement reached with the Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, Newsom was ordered to pay $1.35 million to reimburse the church’s legal fees and costs and is prohibited from placing any additional restrictions on places of worship. Fines previously imposed against the church for violating the governor’s order have also been dropped as a result of the agreement.
The outcome in the Harvest Rock case is expected to produce a cascade of relief for other religious entities that suffered under the draconian coronavirus lockdowns imposed by Democrat leaders at state and local levels all across the nation.
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the law firm representing Harvest Rock Church explained, “The dominoes are falling, and churches are being freed from dictatorial and unconstitutional restrictions.” Staver added, “The Supreme Court has intervened multiple times to provide relief. As a result, there will be more restrictions lifted and charges dropped for churches in the near future.”
Churches nationwide have been pushing back against overreach against religious freedom, and indications that they will ultimately succeed are strong. In Maine, for example, severe pandemic-related limitations on the number of worshippers permitted to gather are now also the subject of a request by Calvary Chapel of Bangor for an emergency injunction filed with the U.S. Supreme Court pending a decision on its own lawsuit.
Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church together with Logos Baptist Ministries in Illinois filed a federal complaint against Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order limiting church attendance to 10 worshippers, and though that mandate has since been lifted, the governor has indicated his belief that he should retain the freedom to re-impose it if conditions warrant.
Lighthouse Fellowship Church in Virginia was targeted last spring for a gathering in which 16 worshippers met in a sanctuary designed to accommodate 293, something which represented a violation of pandemic restrictions that brought penalties of up to 12 months in fail and a costly fine. According to Liberty Counsel, however, the criminal charges filed against the church’s pastor have since been dropped.
Though there appears to be real cause for optimism that governors who curtailed fundamental religious liberties under the guise of public safety are poised for judicial rebuke in these and other cases, it is incumbent upon the faithful everywhere to remain vigilant to prevent a repeat of such egregious encroachments.