The pursuit of religious freedom continues for faithful Californians. Last night, the Center for American Liberty, in conjunction with the Dhillon Law Group, Inc., on behalf of churches in San Bernardino County and in Riverside County represented in Gish v. Newsom, filed a Reply Brief at the United States Supreme Court; on January 7th, plaintiffs submitted an Emergency Application for Writ of Injunction to the Honorable Elena Kagan; on January 10th, Justice Kagan demanded the State of California respond to plaintiff’s application; the State filed its Opposition Brief on January 13th.
The emergency application for a writ of injunction comes after federal courts, for weeks, have ignored clear directives from the Supreme Court forbidding the disparate treatment of religious organizations through COVID-19 restrictions. To this day, the State of California criminalizes Californians of all faiths from gathering together to pray and worship but allows comparable in-person secular gatherings to continue.
The Reply Brief opens with “Applicants’ need for injunctive relief is dire. For over nine months now, the State of California has limited Applicants’ First Amendment freedoms, imposing the State’s value judgment that free religious expression and congregant worship— as opposed to essential things like marijuana, liquor, or retail shopping— are not really essential in the lives of religious adherents rather than respecting the high regard the Constitution places on religious freedom.”
The Reply Brief continues “Even worse, in its opposition the State falsely represented to the Court that Applicants never challenged the applicable executive order on constitutional grounds. The State also argues cynically that Applicants’ First Amendment rights should continue to be denied because the State has repeatedly changed the label on its unconstitutional restrictions—something it has done seven times since the pandemic commenced.”
“For nearly 10 months, the State of California has forced faithful Americans to choose between obedience to God and obedience to Gavin, by forcing them to forsake religious gatherings,” said Mark Trammell, Executive Director and General Counsel of the Center for American Liberty. “We are optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court will afford Californians the same relief it correctly afforded New Yorkers by enjoining Governor Newsom’s unconstitutional and discriminatory executive order.”
Background on Gish v. Newsom:
Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 on March 19, 2020, ordering all residents to “heed current State public health directives,” requiring all residents to stay at home. As a result, the State prohibited Californians from attending religious gatherings.
On April 13, 2020, plaintiffs filed a First Amendment lawsuit in Federal Court challenging the Governor’s Order. The following day, plaintiffs filed for a preliminary injunction seeking immediate relief. The district court denied plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.
This case is currently on appeal at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Plaintiff Gish is a member and attends a Christian church in San Bernardino County. Plaintiff Scales is a pastor in San Bernardino County. Plaintiffs Moffatt and Wood are both pastors in Riverside County.
All plaintiffs desire to participate in religious gatherings that employ social distancing and sanitization guidelines.