Saturday, October 17, 2020

Church's Challenge To California COVID-19 Limits Rejected Again

 In South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, (SD CA, Oct. 15, 2020), a California federal district court refused to grant a preliminary injunction to a church that challenged California's current COVID-19 restrictions on worship services. The state limits plaintiffs’ indoor worship services to the lesser of 25% of building capacity or 100 people. The church had earlier unsuccessfully appealed a challenge to an earlier version of state restrictions all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. (See prior posting.) According to the district court:

Plaintiffs now argue ... that California’s “scientific pronouncements” are “largely baseless,” and that by “all reasonable scientific measurements,” the COVID-19 health emergency “has ended.” ... They also argue the State’s restrictions treat certain secular businesses more favorably than religious organizations and have been enforced in a discriminatory manner.

The court again rejected plaintiff's arguments, saying in part:

At bottom, Plaintiffs’ renewed motion asks the Court to second guess decisions made by California officials concerning whether COVID-19 continues to present a health emergency and whether large indoor gatherings with singing pose a risk to public health. Although not binding, the Court finds Chief Justice Roberts’s reasoning in this case to be compelling. The background set forth above shows the State and County “are actively shaping their response to changing facts on the ground.” ...  And the evidence demonstrates the COVID-19 pandemic remains an area “fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties,” where the State and County’s latitude “must be especially broad.”