June 22, 2020—Contra Costa County, California has lifted its completely arbitrary 12-person limit on religious gatherings, in response to the Center for American Liberty’s threat of litigation. On June 5, 2020, Contra Costa County released Health Services Order NO. HO-COVID19-17 (the “Order”) restricting religious gatherings to no more than 12 participants. The Order also required houses of worship—and only houses of worship—to keep and turn over attendance records to the County upon request.
Almost immediately, the County received tremendous push back on its recordation and disclosure policy that clearly disparately targeted houses of worship. Quickly, the County announced its plan to amend its recordation and disclosure policy—but failed to provide specifics regarding the timing of any such policy change.
On June 10, 2020, the Center for American Liberty sent county officials a letter threatening litigation if burdens on religious expression—both the 12-participant limit at religious gatherings and the recordation and disclosure policy—were not immediately rescinded.
Six days later, Contra Costa County officially revised its Health Order eliminating the arbitrary 12-person limit on religious gatherings. The County also followed through with its pledge to eliminate its requirement that only churches keep and turn over attendance records to the County upon requests. Now, attendance record keeping is merely optional.
As a result of the Center for American Liberty’s letter threatening litigation, houses of worship in Contra Costa County may host indoor religious services with up to 100 participants.
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