On Monday, May 25th, California allowed churches to resume meeting in person, as long as they restricted participation to 25% of seating capacity and had no more than 100 people in attendance.
That 100 limit was in substance a ban on worship for large churches, which often have facilities that can hold 500 or 2,000 worshipers or even more.
But at least religious freedom was partially reinstated after a strict ban on in-person worship. Many counties consented to outdoor worship after actual or threatened litigation reminded them to read the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
On Thursday, July 2, the state dialed back the amount of allowable religious freedom by banning singing and chanting during worship services. I am not familiar with Jewish and Muslim worship practices. For Christians singing or chanting or both (depending on the specific tradition) is a major component of worship. It allows Christians to give praise and glory to God at the same time as being encouraged and uplifted by the concepts embedded in the songs.
On Tuesday, July 14, the state again prohibited in-person worship services held inside.
If a place of worship has sufficient space outside and can maintain proper distancing, the state will consent to allow that limited expression of religious freedom.
So if a place of worship is rich enough to have lots of open ground, and has the wealth to afford a second set of sound equipment (mics, speakers, sound board, cables), and has the extra funding to afford a stage and lots of chairs, and has the staffing to set up and take down all that equipment every week, and if the weather cooperates, then the state will give its permission to the exercise of First Amendment.
Otherwise worship services are again prohibited.
Churches who don’t have lots of open space or two sets of sound equipment are out of luck –their freedom to worship together has been revoked. Again. Essentially, only rich churches can still have limited worship.
7/14/20 – Orange County Register – Houses of worship deal with second wave of shutdowns after coronavirus cases surge.
Other required closings in 30 counties (including all of Southern California) containing about 80% of the state’s population include:
- Malls (I am guessing this includes only enclosed malls)
- inside food service at restaurants – yet another financial body-blow for every restaurant
- office space of nonessential businesses
Objection to the restrictions are already emerging: 7/15/20 – Sacramento Bee – “Where do we draw the line?” California church leaders question barring indoor worship
Comment in an article reminds me the state is infringing on the peaceable assembly clause of the First Amendment in addition to the free exercise clause.