Coronavirus

Churches Get Go-Ahead in California's Latest Reopening Plans

They’re still not being treated the same as secular places of gathering, so a legal challenge continues.

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California released new guidelines over the weekend explaining how churches may reopen so long as certain social distancing and public health measures are in place. The state's actions come just a week before a possible confrontation between government officials and a group of religious leaders planning to hold in-person services for the Pentecost, May 31.

Under a new 13-page plan from California's Department of Public Health, churches and places of worship in the Golden State can reopen with a limit of 25 percent capacity and a host of screening and sanitization measures in place to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19. Church staff must be screened for symptoms and their temperatures checked, and congregants should be similarly screened when they arrived for services. Social distancing plans must be implemented to keep congregants apart, which means no passing the collection plate around, singing is strongly discouraged, no potluck meals, and, of course, everybody should wear masks.

These new guidelines come just days after the Department of Justice sent Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) a letter warning that the state's reopening plans were inappropriately and unconstitutionally leaving churches behind. The state had unveiled plans for the reopening of retail spaces, bars, restaurants, schools, and other gathering places, but churches would not be considered until a later phase.

That approach presented a legal problem because public health restrictions on the rights of people to gather and worship together need to generally match the restrictions placed on comparable secular gatherings. Otherwise, the state risks running afoul of the Constitution and of certain Supreme Court precedents by treating religious activity differently than similarly situated non-religious behavior. It was those constitutional risks that prompted the Justice Department's warning letter to the state.

California also released new plans over the weekend that will allow retail stores that aren't currently open to start reopening under similar requirements as churches.

There's a notable difference in how the state treats these businesses compared to churches, however, and that difference is likely to keep the legal challenges alive against California's coronavirus closure orders. While churches are required to limit their capacity to 25 percent, places like shopping malls are only required to reduce their capacity to 50 percent. This disparity has already led to a Pentecostal pastor in San Diego County saying that the new guidelines don't do enough to persuade him to drop his legal challenge.

In fact, Pastor Arthur E. Hodges has even asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the case and added a supplementary letter to his request explaining that the new guidelines released over the weekend are not sufficient. "The State is still interfering with [the] right to free exercise of religion," Hodges and his lawyers told the Court, "by issuing arbitrary and unconstitutional orders."

Read his lawsuit here. This Sunday we'll see whether California attempts to stop the more than 1,200 churches who have declared that they'll be holding socially distant Pentecost services in person regardless of what the state orders.

NEXT: County Threatens Fines, Demands Expensive Alterations From Arizona Couple Hosting Free Yoga Classes and Potlucks on Their Property

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    1. I imagine you have no use for religions, so have little sympathy. If a person doesn’t drink, she might not consider liquor stores to be essential either. Of course, very few politicians are non-drinkers. Or, apparently, churchgoers.

      1. “I imagine you have no use for religions, so have little sympathy.”

        He’s a long time commenter. He was being sarcastic.

        1. Newsome is not being sarcastic, he’s being serious. Which is the problem.

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    2. Does the Church of Scientology count as a business or church?

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      2. where is Shelly Miscavige?

        1. So in Godfather 2, there’s a scene where Michael is arguing with Kay. After going on about how important his kids are, he apologizes profusely for her miscarriage while he was away, and promises to change.
          She then tells him it wasn’t a miscarriage, but she had his son aborted (so it was apparently far enough along that she knew the gender) because she refused to bring Michael’s son into the world.
          At this point, Michael smacks her across the face. Just once, then he collects himself.
          So… I’m wondering what the libertarian take on this one is?
          I know abortion is sacred and all, but I kinda feel like she deserved it

  1. Has Governor Newsom released his guidelines for when, whether, and how we can exercise our freedom of speech–or are those guidelines still under construction?

    1. Committing to a plan of action in the shadow of the SECOND WAVE??

      No way, Joseph.

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    2. They’ve been off the table for a while Ken. Didn’t you get the new pamphlet of approved phrases in Cali?
      Approved: people born with XX chromosomes can be men whenever they so chose.
      Immediate move to solitary confinement: I think analyzing Trump’s position on this issue actually requires some nuance.

    3. you can exercise my dick in your titties

  2. These fucking morons. I mean the politicians of course. It has long since been obvious that the curves have been flattened, that hospitals are practically begging for patients because they have so many beds available, and that the only way to get herd immunity is to get the damned disease or get a vaccination which won’t exist for another year or so.

    And instead of just undoing the lockdowns, they come up with all these stupid phases which do nothing except make them look like they are afraid to admit the lockdowns were a mistake.

    Fucking clowns. I swear, it all confirms my theory that politicians simply want to look like Hollywood tycoons, barking orders and firing people and making decisions, but they haven’t got the brains to realize that Hollywood tycoons have no more resemblance to the real world than Hollywood romances are Hollywood wars.

    Fucking morons.

    1. I suspect screwing with religious people is its own reward from the perspective of the progressives implementing these regulations.

      The state legislature of Georgia incorporated the Confederate flag into their state flag in 1956 in order to signal their support for segregation in the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education, etc. The state of California is violating the First Amendment rights of religious people for more or less the same reason–to signal their hatred to the voters who share their prejudices.

      California progressives certainly don’t think anyone’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion is important enough to get in the way of progressive policies by the state.

      Like I always say, the definition of progressivism is using the coercive power of government to force individuals to make sacrifices for the greater good (as seen by progressives). Forcing people to sacrifice their First Amendment religious rights is considered an especially pious act within progressive circles.

    2. I spent the weekend talking with several people here in CA. All of them liberals, and all of them convinced that SCIENCE!!! (TM) has given them free license to freak the shit out. SCIENCE!!(TM) has proven to them that if you pass within 15 feet of a person without a mask on, Grandma will die. SCIENCE!!(TM) has told them that venturing forth into the COVID wastes will bring instant deaths. If you argue with them, they always fall back to “There is nothing wrong with being safe, and it costs so little!”

      And by the way- most of them are complete hypocrites. One was complaining about the lack of social distancing at some butcher shop. She was super judgey about it like a good Karen, but she didn’t leave. No she still got her prime dry aged steaks. Why? Because she knows in her heart of hearts that it wasn’t THAT big of a risk for her to stay to get her luxury meat.

    3. Will you please quit insulting clowns and morons by associating them with politicians?

      Thank you.

      1. Real clowns spend years perfecting their craft and are ultimately judged in the marketplace and by their peers. Politicians simply beclown themselves in the moment. There is no comparison.

    4. They don’t care whether it was/is a mistake, only whether it looks like it. Because they’re afraid they’ll be lynched if it looks like a mistake. So by continuing to look like they know what they’re doing (but look like it only to people who don’t know better), maybe they’ll convince people that it was not a mistake. (Same with the war on drugs, which I heard that 40 years ago everyone in high circles knew was a mistake, so they had to continue it.)

      And what’s the deal with different rules for churches from those for schools? It can only be that they think enough voters will consider schools essential and churches not. Which basically, unless they believe in that particular religion (or one very close to it), most people do think.

  3. This is just California’s way of finding out who is on Team Red verus Team Blue. Because like it or not, Team Blue worships the State before it worships any other gods. Churches must always take a back seat to the Almighty State.

    I mean really, even those proggie churchs with their rainbow flags defer to the State in all things. That’s what the culture war has boiled down to.

    1. Separation of church and state is a fool’s errand. In absence of a religion, government always seeks to fill the void of blind adherence to rules made by men deeming themselves superior.

      1. Separation of church and state means that the state has to treat churches like any other organization. No special treatment, no special restrictions.

        Which is hard for government to do, because government WANTS to control how people think. The First Amendment is one of the biggest thorns in the side of government. It’s there for a reason. Statists, especially those of the proggie variety, don’t understand that the Constitution exists as a means to RESTRAIN the power of government. Even during an era when the hated orange man is in the White House they still can’t grok the idea of limited government.

        1. I disagree that that they don’t understand that the Constitution is there as a restraint. They fully understand it and that’s why they hate it. What they really are incapable of understanding is why nearly all of their economic arguments and a large swath of their social arguments are completely unworkable. They can’t understand that people are leaving New York, Chicago and California in droves as a result of their utopia being implemented precisely because those restraints are laughed off in those areas.

  4. I’m just waiting for the inevitable story where the corporate media completely ignores a viral video going around of a church parishioner getting choked to death by a cop after refusing to move the extra 13″ away from his neighbor required by the state to keep him safe.

  5. Newsom thinks he’s in control. How cute!

  6. Here in Ohio 70% of the deaths were nursing homes and a another large part prisons. Otherwise the public had very few . That idiot doctor and DeWhine `shut down the state and ravaged business’s for no reason. The state’s broke and unemployment is highest in decades. Dumb asses.

    1. It was for your protection, citizen.

  7. Just for the record, everybody, here’s what the First Amendment says:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    —-First Amendment

    In what way are Gavin Newsom’s regulations consistent with the First Amendment?

    Why is it up to Gavin Newsom to establish acceptable conduct in churches?

    Is there some aspect of “free exercise” that Gavin Newsom find confusing?

    1. “In what way are Gavin Newsom’s regulations consistent with the First Amendment?”

      It is just ‘common sense worship control’, following almost directly the infringements on the second amendment that they got away with.

    2. “Am I a member of Congress?”

      —-Newsom

    3. Not only that, but I’m sure California’s constitution has a freedom of religion clause; it might be even more explicit than the national one.

  8. Does this include the Church of the Sacred Bleeding Heart of Jesus, located somewhere in downtown Los Angeles, California?

    1. You know, you always have the Lord by your side

  9. While churches are required to limit their capacity to 25 percent, places like shopping malls are only required to reduce their capacity to 50 percent.

    “Places like shopping malls”? For example, churches?

    1. Please donate to Christians United for Israel.

      1. I considered donating to Chrisians for Feeding Politicians to Lions, but changed my mind. That would be cruel…to the lions.

        1. Can you imagine the indigestion they would get from eating something so rotten. Just cruel.

          1. In Newsom’s case, the brylcream would keep the lions away…

            1. Ok…all three of you (MS, CS, S) were hysterical. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes.

  10. take the temperature of all congregants. they don’t require that when entering a store not mask nor anything else why single out churches. it mostly old ladies that go to church, how many will die of CO2 poisoning while wearing their mask. Litteraly in a heat wave i can see dozens passing out

  11. At least in the land of fruits and granola, there is some allowance for Churches & Synagogues to open in some manner.

    Here is the People’s Republic of NJ, no such luck. You can get booze, weed, go to non-essential retail stores, go to parks, and go to the beach (while drinking in public now – it is safer! Who knew?!). You cannot however, attend in-person religious services.

    AG Barr….Could you help us in NJ by sending a letter to Phailing Phil Murphy?

  12. Churches are not like shopping malls, the character of the use is entirely different. Similar secular settings could include theaters, concert halls, classrooms and high school basketball games among others, that is activities with more of less fixed seating and a gathering of people for a significant period of time.

    1. Don’t care.
      If someone wants to go to a church, it’s their call, not some tin-pot-dictator wannabe.

    2. But the schools are less restricted than the churches, right? Pretty much the same kind of occupancy.

    3. I might agree if we are talking about High Holiday services. But morning minyan, where we have maybe 15 people? We cannot even do that in the People’s Republic of NJ.

    4. “Churches are not like shopping malls, the character of the use is entirely different.”

      Rights are the obligation to respect people’s choices, and the idea that your obligation to respect other people’s choices disappears because of the nature of the venue in question is absurd.

      If someone were forcing you to attend these churches against your will, that would be a violating of your right to make choices for yourself. No one is doing that.

  13. November is gonna be awesome.

  14. Churches open, Tony, Buttplug, Kirkland hardest hit.

  15. His Highness Newsom’s authority was challenged!!
    But it took that thread from the DOJ to get the asshole moving.

  16. So when that family arrives that puts the church at 26% capacity and isn’t turned away, who there (the pastor, the staff or the family that showed up to practice their religion freely) has violated the law and will be arrested or fined for practicing their religion? Still not constitutional.

    1. “…Still not constitutional.”

      In which case, let Newsom make the call and defend it (on his dime) to SCOTUS.

  17. Important distinction: churches are required to limit their capacity to 25 percent, places like shopping malls are only required to reduce their capacity to 50 percent. electrician alexandria

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