California religious leaders look to Supreme Court as they push back against state’s reopening guidelines

California Connection

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Some California religious leaders are hoping the United States Supreme Court will once again weigh in on the state’s restrictions on places of worship, but this time for the rules in the new, tiered economic reopening system.

Attorneys representing the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in San Diego this week filed their request with the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to settle the circuit court split on the constitutional standard for reviewing free exercise challenges to pandemic restrictions.

California’s tiered economic reopening system prohibits indoor, in-person worship in the purple, widespread tier, which currently encompasses 95% of the state’s population.

Religious leaders take issue with this, along with the 50% capacity limit in the state’s least restrictive economic tier and guidelines that discourage singing during service.

Religious leaders say Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration is violating religious freedom with its handling of the pandemic.

In a statement, Attorney Charles Limandri wrote, “While millions of Californians across the state in a wide range of industries have been able to resume working and shopping applying new mask-wearing and social distancing protocols, church services remain a disfavored activity in the eyes of Governor Newsom.”

Newsom’s administration has defended the steps taken amid the pandemic in an effort to protect public health.

The request was filed just hours before the court temporarily blocked New York’s restrictions on houses of worship in COVID-19 hotspots.

In May, California’s capacity restrictions under its old reopening strategy prevailed in a Supreme Court decision 5-4, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was still on the court.

It’s unclear when or if the court will hear the latest request from California’s religious leaders.

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