Last year, after Harvest Rock Church and its 160 “member” churches sued California Governor Gavin Newsom over rules preventing them from hosting indoor church gatherings, a U.S. District Judge dismissed their argument by saying there was no persecution at play. Judge Jesus Bernal said in no uncertain terms, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact. The First Amendment may not be used to make it one.”
But even though an appeals court upheld that ruling, the Supreme Court eventually overturned it. They said churches had to be subject the same restrictions as other places, including grocery stores… even though what goes on inside those two places are wildly different.
Because Judge Bernal was bound by the Supreme Court’s decision, the only question was what the state of California now owed the church in legal fees. This week, we got the answer: $1,350,000.
The Christian Post reports:
The order also prohibited unfair treatment of houses of worship in emergency orders, explaining that the state government could “impose capacity or numerical restrictions on religious worship services and gatherings at places of worship that are either identical to, or at least as favorable as, the restrictions imposed on other similar gatherings of similar risk.”
Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver, whose legal nonprofit represented Harvest Rock, said in a statement released Monday that “Newsom has now been permanently quarantined and may not violate the First Amendment rights of churches and places of worship again.”
The Supreme Court’s reasoning was wrong and Newsom never violated anyone’s religious freedoms. He understood that religious gatherings are substantively different from other public places — you can’t buy groceries over Zoom — and required stricter rules. He did this in order to save lives in the midst of a global pandemic. To pretend like a higher body count is acceptable in the name of religious freedom makes no sense at all.
Christians themselves will often be the first to tell you that “church” is not a literal building, but rather a body of believers in worship. There was never a reason they couldn’t hear sermons over Facebook or gather online to discuss the Bible. This was never really about religious freedom; it was about whether conservative Christians had the right put everyone’s health in harm’s way. Sadly, they won… and society lost. Their selfishness showed everyone the shallowness of their “pro-life” label.
Not that the church’s leaders will care. They’ll soon have an extra $1.35 million in their bank account that will need their attention.
(Image via Shutterstock)