A few updates on the craziness in California regarding free expression of religion:
- Superior Court Judge in San Diego issues preliminary injunction which allows strip clubs to reopen – they may resume exercise of their free-speech rights under the First Amendment.
- Another church stands up against prohibition on worshiping indoors.
- One church files suit to stop city harassment for holding worship outdoors.
Judge finds stripping is protected speech under First Amendment
11/6/20 – San Diego Union-Tribune – Judge overrules County, allows strip clubs to reopen
11/12/20 – Washington Free Beacon – California Set to Reopen Strip Clubs Before Churches
Two strip clubs in San Diego hit with cease and desist orders filed suit to lift the orders. A San Diego Superior Court judge issued a temporary injunction against the cease and desist order. Full hearing will occur at the end of November. In the meantime both strip clubs are allowed to operate.
Argument made by the strip clubs is that stripping constitutes speech which is protected by the First Amendment. The judge concurred. Just to be clear, a woman taking her clothes off in front of paying male customers constitutes freedom of speech which is constitutionally protected.
That is the exact argument, apart from stripping naked, that churches have been making across the state.
The Free Beacon article quotes an attorney who says this case could open the door to churches being able to express their First Amendment rights again. Oh, by the way, the quoted attorney works for the law firm which represents Grace Community Church.
Until the final hearing the strip clubs will be able to open under protection of the First Amendment. Churches may not do so.
Another church stands up to restrictions on First Amendment
11/1/20 – ABC 7, San Francisco Bay Area – San Jose church fighting back against County as pastor faces fines, jail time for holding indoor services
11/3/20 – KPIX 5, CBS San Francisco Bay area – Court Grants Restraining Order Requiring Calvary Chapel San Jose To Comply With Covid-19 Health Orders
Santa Clara County has levied $330,000 in fines against Calvary Chapel San Jose for holding indoor worship services. Looks like fines are currently accumulating at rate of $5,000 per week. I can’t calculate how that works since articles indicate church has been meeting inside only since August, which would be somewhere around 12 weeks.
Lawyer for the church says that no one at the church has contracted coronavirus. The single quote is subject to several interpretations, but I think it asserts there is nobody attending the church that is even sick.
If the infection rate in Santa Clara county is the same as Los Angeles County, which is 2,547 per 100,000, that would suggest there would be about 15 people in the congregation who have fallen ill.
The county claims they have worked with the church “for a long time.” Senior pastor says other than yelling at the staff on those occasions when County officials showed up on the property, the county has not been engaged in any conversations with the church.
The county has obtained a temporary restraining order against the church, ordering them to hold worship services to 100 people. Another hearing will be held 12/1/20.
State imposed mandate requires worship services be limited to 25% of capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller.
The sanctuary seats 1,900 people. There are 600 people attending. Church says that leaves plenty of space for proper social distancing. State diktat limits the church to 100.
Apparently, there are a number of other lawsuits initiated either by the government or by churches over the state ordered restrictions on religious freedom. Article at Washington Examiner on 11/2/20 (California Church challenges $350,000 in coronavirus fines) indicates the state is involved in “multiple lawsuits” over restrictions.
Church goes to court to defend itself from city harassment
11/30/20 – The Roys Report – Church Files Harassment Lawsuit Against City for Accusing it of Violating Health Orders – Word Aflame Tabernacle has been diligently following all state requirements for worship. They are outside. They maintain social distance. They wear masks. They use a decibel monitor to music and dial back the sound system when it gets too loud.
The pastor says no one at the church has fallen ill to coronavirus.
In spite of that, the city manager and one of the church’s neighbors have put extensive effort into watching the church, trying to catch them violating some tidbit of the government rules. Complaints filed by the neighbor and the city manager have prompted five visits by Los Angeles County health officials, none of which found any violations of any sort.
The city levied $3,000 in fines but then revoked the notice. The city manager and neighbor have been observed hiding in bushes taking pictures of the congregation. The neighbor has screamed at the congregation on several occasions.
So to end the harassment by the city manager and the neighbor, the church has filed suit against both of them.
This church is having to defend itself in court even though it is diligently following all the state and county rules.