The U.S. Supreme Court in December ruled against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions on churches and synagogues. The court contended that the state’s restrictions on houses of worship were harsher than those on secular establishments.
The high court vacated a district court decision against Harvest Rock Baptist Church and Harvest International Ministry in Pasadena, California, which sued the state over COVID-19 restrictions on churches. The high court ordered the lower court to reconsider its decision in light of its own ruling against Cuomo’s restrictions. Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast the deciding vote, with Justice John Roberts voting with the liberal justices.
California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, won’t like what a federal court just ruled in the Harvest Rock case. Liberty Counsel, which represents the church and the ministry, announced that the court issued an order permanently blocking the state from issuing or enforcing any capacity or numerical restrictions on religious worship services. California also must pay Harvest Rock $1.3 million in reimbursed attorney’s fees. An excerpt:
The settlement references several Supreme Court opinions, including Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom, that include a long list of similar nonreligious activity the High Court set forth as comparable gatherings. These include grocery stores, warehouses, big box stores, transportation, infrastructure, telecommunications, and much more. In other words, churches and places of worship may never again have discriminatory restrictions placed on them that are not equally applied to a long list of “critical infrastructure” or “essential services” as outlined in several Supreme Court precedents cited in the settlement agreement.
“This is a momentous day for churches in America!” Harvest Rock Baptist Church Pastor Ché Ahn said. “After nearly a yearlong battle defending our religious freedoms, our lawsuit has reached a permanent settlement in our favor. I am thrilled to see the complete reversal of the last discriminatory restrictions against churches in California, knowing this case will act as a precedent, not only in our state, but also in our nation. We are incredibly grateful to our attorney Mat Staver and to Liberty Counsel for their relentless support and fierce determination. Most of all, we give all the glory to God for moving mightily in this historic season!”