California Churches Are Waiting for Supreme Court Ruling on COVID-19 Restrictions on Worship Services

Churches in California can’t hold worship services inside church buildings because of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry filed a lawsuit against the state to block these severe restrictions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld them. Liberty Counsel, which represents the church and the ministry, stated that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to grant the church and ministry an emergency injunction.

California has the most severe restrictions in the nation on places of worship with its total ban on in-person worship. All but six states have abandoned numerical caps on worship and only one state – California – bans indoor worship entirely. Only six states and the District of Columbia employ numerical caps that apply regardless of a facility’s size. Two of these six states, New York and Connecticut, cannot enforce their caps following the Second Circuit’s recent precedential decision invalidating New York’s 10- and 25-person caps. Of the four remaining states with numerical caps, Maine limits in-person worship to 50 persons, New Jersey to 150, and Rhode Island to 125. Washington, D.C. caps indoor religious gatherings at 250 persons.

The Supreme Court last year asked lower courts to reconsider their rulings against churches in light of its decision against New York’s COVID-19 restrictions. The court contended that New York’s restrictions on houses of worship were harsher than those on secular establishments. But the same court last week rejected a request by Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in Nevada to block the state’s restrictions on churches.

Gov. Newsom has lifted a statewide stay-at-home order (which some say he did after efforts to recall him grew), although local governments may retain restrictions.

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