CA Churches File Reply at SCOTUS

Dec 1, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Liberty Counsel filed the final reply brief to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry’s emergency petition for an injunction pending appeal in their federal lawsuit against California Governor Gavin Newsom’s unconstitutional worship ban and discriminatory treatment. Justice Elana Kagan issued the order to Gov. Newsom to respond yesterday in response to the churches’ request. 

Last week, the Justices issued a 5-4 ruling on behalf of churches and synagogues in New York against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions. The California restrictions are much worse than those in New York. 

Harvest Rock Church has multiple campuses in California, including in Pasadena, Los Angeles, Irvine and Corona. Harvest International Ministries (HIM) has 162 member churches throughout the state. Irreparable harm is being suffered every day as the churches remain subject to the unconstitutional restrictions, coupled with daily criminal threats, fines, and closure.

The Code Enforcement Division for the City of Pasadena and the Criminal Prosecutor have threatened criminal charges, fines, and closure for being open for worship against the governor’s orders and local health orders. The letters threaten up to one year in prison, daily criminal charges and $1,000 fines against the pastors, staff, and parishioners. 

The discrimination has become more obvious and severe in Gov. Newsom’s new “Blueprint” issued on August 28, 2020, which established a system of four Tiers. The “Blueprint” discriminates against religious meetings in churches and places of worship in every Tier. The chart attached to the petition makes this discrimination very clear. For example, the consequence of the sea of purple in the “color-coded executive edict” is that indoor worship services are completely prohibited for 99.1 percent of Californians, including most of Harvest Rock and HIM churches. However, warehouses, big box centers, shopping malls, liquors stores, family entertainment and destination centers, gyms, fitness centers, museums receive preferential treatment with either no capacity limits or no numerical limits. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Governor Gavin Newsom’s ‘color-coded executive edicts’ violate the freedom to worship which is protected in the First Amendment. No pastor, church, or parishioner in America should have to choose between worship and prison. This discrimination must stop.” 

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