California: Appeals court reverses lower court decision to uphold restrictions on church services

Cby Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – A court of appeals has told a lower court that, in light of recent US Supreme Court rulings, it must reconsider its decision to uphold California’s restrictions on in-person worship services, the Christian Post reported Wednesday. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of Chula Vista’s South Bay United Pentecostal Church, which had argued the pertinent COVID-19 restrictions were discriminatory against houses of worship.

Represented by the Thomas More Society, the South Bay United Pentecostal Church said the local coronavirus order violated the First Amendment right to freedom of worship and it unfairly restricted gatherings at houses of worship as compared to gatherings at secular businesses, the Christian Post reports.

The church brought its case to the District Court where, on October 14, Judge Cynthia Bashant struck down its challenge to the restrictions. The church appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Six weeks after Judge Bashant’s lower court ruling, the US Supreme Court temporarily blocked restrictions on houses of worship in New York State. Then, last week, SCOTUS told a district court to re-hear a case brought by a California church challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus restrictions.

Taking into account these recent SCOTUS rulings when deciding in favor of South Bay church, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said: “In light of the Supreme Court’s orders in Harvest Rock Church, Inc. v. Newsom … and Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo … we vacate the district court’s October 15, 2020, order denying the motion for injunctive relief filed by South Bay United Pentecostal Church (South Bay), and remand to the district court for further consideration of this matter.”

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