Department of Justice tells San Francisco mayor that city COVID-19 limits on houses of worship are “draconian”
by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – Writing to the mayor of San Francisco about his COVID-19 policies, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said on September 25 that it is “draconian” to allow only one congregant at a time in house of worship, while “allowing multiple patrons in other indoor settings including gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and daycares,” the Christian Post reports.
In their letter to Mayor London Breed, DoJ lawyers Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband and US Attorney for the Northern District of California David Anderson said the limitations on houses of worship is “draconian, out of step with the treatment afforded other similar indoor activities in San Francisco, wholly at odds with this Nation’s traditional understanding of religious liberty, and may violate the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
Asserting there is no “pandemic exception” to the Constitution, Anderson and Dreiband stressed: “Individual rights, including the protections in the Bill of Rights, are always operative and restrain government action.”
“Thus, even in times of emergency, when reasonable, narrowly-tailored, and temporary restrictions may lawfully limit our liberty, the First Amendment and federal statutory law continue to prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” the attorneys said. “Government may not discriminate against religious gatherings compared to other non-religious gatherings that have the same effect on the government’s public health interest, absent compelling reasons,” they added.
Responding to the DoJ letter, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement to KPIX that San Francisco is “opening at the speed of safety” and larger gatherings in houses of worship were being planned, “beyond what is described in the federal government’s letter.”
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