Pasadena church files for restraining order on CA’s restrictions on indoor religious services

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A Pasadena church filed a renewed motion Friday for a temporary restraining order regarding Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close most indoor worship in state counties, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday that a lower federal court must further consider the state’s COVID-19 restrictions. 

The motion, which names Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry as the plaintiff and Newsom as the defendant, requests that the federal district court of California issue the restraining order and preliminary injunction “restraining Gov. Newsom from enforcing his unconstitutional and discriminatory COVID-19 orders prohibiting plaintiffs’ religious worship services.”

Immediate relief is sought by Sunday because the church faces “the unconscionable and unconstitutional choice of attending religious worship services or facing criminal punishment, jail, daily fines, and the closure of their churches,” the motion alleges. 

The motion comes after the Supreme Court vacated rulings of lower courts and sided with the Pasadena-based ministry Thursday that California’s guidelines on indoor religious services violated their First Amendment rights, following its 5-4 ruling last week that New York could not impose restrictions on attendance at places of worship. 

“The ruling by the Supreme Court on behalf of Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry provides great relief for churches and places of worship,” said Mathew Staver, who represents the ministry. “The final days of Governor Gavin Newsom’s ‘color-coded executive edicts’ banning worship are numbered and coming to an end.” 

In light of the High Court’s decision, David Hegg, senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church, said Friday he hoped the California court would follow the lead of the Supreme Court. 

“This is a big deal. I hope two things happen: I hope that the California court can say we can meet indoors and I hope that churches don’t become real stupid and meet without masks and not social distance.” 

Over the past three months, Grace Baptist has held outdoor services, where congregants wear masks and practice other safety measures, according to Hegg. Should indoor services be allowed again, the church would implement protocols such as closing off rows of seats and double down on sanitizing, and continue to practice social distancing. 

In mid-May, 17 SCV pastors, including Hegg, shared a letter depicting their own guidelines on safely reopening indoors, which included the aforementioned measures. 

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