(FREE BEACON) – A federal appeals court could allow California to restrict in-person worship, even though the Supreme Court ruled in favor of another California church that challenged the measures in December.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Harvest Rock Church's request for an emergency stay designed to block California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) from implementing massive religious shutdowns during the Christmas season. The ruling allowed the governor to continue enforcing some of the lockdown measures against worship services for the time being, bucking a trend of legal victories for churches that have challenged coronavirus shutdowns. The appeals court heard oral arguments on the broader lockdown challenge, as it weighs the constitutionality of Newsom policies that completely prohibit indoor worship in large parts of the state.
"The state has a very high public interest as well, to protect churchgoers and non-churchgoers from this disease," Judge Johnnie Rawlinson, one of the three judges on the panel, said during oral arguments Monday. Judge Morgan Christen said she was "troubled" by some of the restrictions in place, including the outright ban on indoor religious gatherings. She questioned why a numerical cap on religious gatherings could not be instituted. But both judges sympathized with state regulators who argue that the virus's prevalence is more significant now than it was in the past.
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