Thursday, December 24, 2020

Court Again Refuses To Enjoin California's COVID Limits On Church Services

In a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court previously refused to grant injunctive relief, a California federal district court again denied a preliminary injunction against California's COVID orders to a church seeking to hold indoor services. In South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, (SD CA, Dec. 21, 2020), the court said in part:

In drawing this difficult balance between religious liberty and public health, the Court must follow the higher courts’ precedents, when the precedents seem to change course as quickly as the various pandemic restrictions. Admittedly, this has been a rapidly evolving—and escalating—pandemic. And in this very case, the Supreme Court declined to intervene after the Court refused to enjoin California’s prior regulation. Now, by all measures, the pandemic is worse and more out of control in Southern California than when that decision was made. Nevertheless, the Court is tasked with deciding whether Chief Justice Roberts’ rationale for not intervening in this case has now “expired,” as Justice Gorsuch’s recent concurrence in another case suggests. See Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo...

California has carefully designed the different exemptions to match its goal of reducing community spread, based on a neutral, seven-factor risk analysis. The Court does not find that California’s Regional Stay at Home Order is underinclusive as to exceed the boundaries drawn by the First Amendment. Therefore, based on the record before the Court, Plaintiffs are not likely to show that the Regional Stay at Home Order restricts more than is necessary to advance the California’s compelling interest in reducing community spread.

Fox5 News reports on the decision.