CA Governor Must Respond to SCOTUS

Jan 27, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Since Liberty Counsel filed an injunction pending appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry against Governor Gavin Newsom’s worship restrictions, Justice Elana Kagan has ordered the governor to respond by 5 p.m. PT on Friday. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the injunction pending appeal for Tiers 2-4 of Newsom’s “Blueprint” but denied it for Tier 1 and the Regional Stay-at-Home Order. Tiers 2-3 placed a 100- and 200- person cap on all houses of worship despite the size of the building. Tier 1 bans ALL WORSHIP on houses of worship. The three-judge Ninth Circuit panel for Harvest Rock Church said it was bound to follow the recent panel decision in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, which was released on January 22. Last December, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley and Calvary Chapel Lone Mountain in their lawsuits against Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s unconstitutional 50-person worship bans. As a result, there is now a conflict of decisions among the Ninth Circuit.

Judge O’Scannlain wrote separately in the recent decision in which he said that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion not only conflicts with the Supreme Court case involving churches and synagogues, but it also conflicts with the prior Ninth Circuit panel that struck down the 50-person limit in Nevada. 

“I write separately, however, because I believe that the decision in South Bay is woefully out of step with both the Supreme Court’s decision in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, and our own court’s decision in Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak. A simple, straightforward application of these controlling cases compels what should be the obvious result here: California’s uniquely severe restrictions against religious worship services—including its total ban against indoor worship in nearly the entire state—are patently unconstitutional and should be enjoined. The court’s refusal to do so in South Bay cries out for correction,” said O’Scannlain. 

O’Scannlain also wrote, “Even in the midst of the present pandemic, these measures are drastic: California is the only state in the country that imposes such a ban, according to the brief filed in this case by an organization participating as amicus curiae. Yet, in exactly the same locales where indoor worship is prohibited, California still allows a vast array of secular facilities to open indoors, including (to name only a few): retail stores, shopping malls, factories, food-processing plants, warehouses, transportation facilities, childcare centers, colleges, libraries, professional sports facilities, and movie studios…We should have little trouble concluding that these severe measures violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. My view on that question is unchanged from my dissent from our denial of Harvest Rock Church’s first emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal in October." 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to violate the First Amendment by discriminating against houses of worship, and we have returned to the U.S. Supreme Court because the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals did not follow the High Court’s roadmap. We look forward to the High Court resolving this unconstitutional oppression once and for all.” 

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