May 19, 2020—Today, the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the US DOJ sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, expressing concern over the state’s shutting down of all religious gatherings and strongly encouraging the state to make accommodations for religious worship.
The Justice Department’s letter to Governor Newsom states:
“This facially discriminates against religious exercise. California has not shown why interactions in offices and studios of the entertainment industry, and in-person operations to facilitate nonessential ecommerce, are included on the list as being allowed with social distancing where telework is not practical, while gatherings with social distancing for purposes of religious worship are forbidden, regardless of whether remote worship is practical or not.”
“Even more pronounced unequal treatment of faith communities is evident in California’s Reopening Plan.”
The letter directs the Governor’s attention to four cases: Abiding Place Ministries v. Wooten, Gish v. Newsom, Cross Culture Christian Ctr. v. Newsom, and South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom.
The Center for American Liberty filed Gish v. Newsom, in coordination with the Dhillon Law Group on 04/13/2020. Likewise, in coordination with Limandri & Jonna, the Thomas More Society, and the Dhillon Law Group, the Center for American Liberty filed South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom on 05/11/2020. The Center for American Liberty also serves as co-counsel with Freedom X in Abiding Place Ministries v. Wooten.
“The Justice Department rightly points out that Governor Newsom is discriminating against the faith community,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Liberty. “In California, it remains the case that you can spend unlimited amounts of time at Costco, laundromats, marijuana dispensaries, and liquor stores, but men and women of faith are prohibited from attending their religious services at churches, synagogues, mosques, gurdwaras, mandirs, temples, and other houses of worship. This double standard is unacceptable, unconstitutional, overreaching, and must stop. We appreciate the Justice Department’s support for our clients’ position, and sincerely hope that Governor Newsom will immediately cease relegating faith gatherings to third-class status. For people of faith, religious worship is as ‘essential’ to them as eating and breathing. During times of crisis, people need their faith and community support more than ever, and the right to free exercise of religion is a fundamental precept of our nation’s organizing laws that may not be “cancelled,” even in a health crisis.”