This will be his only warning.
Governor Gavin Newsom of California recently received a warning from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice stating that he will need to reopen religious services. Newsom’s recent reopening plan allows several businesses to reopen in “Stage 2,” but restricts churches and other worship places from reopening until “Stage 3.”
A statement to Newsom wrote:
Of course we recognize the duty that you have to protect the health and safety of Californians in the face of a pandemic that is unprecedented in our lifetimes.
Laws that do not treat religious activities equally with comparable nonreligious activities are subject to heightened scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. … Religious gatherings may not be singled out for unequal treatment compared to other nonreligious gatherings that have the same effect on the government’s public health interest, absent the most compelling reasons.
California has not shown why interactions in offices and studios of the entertainment industry, and in-person operations to facilitate nonessential ecommerce, are included on the [essential workforce] list as being allowed with social distancing where telework is not practical, while gatherings with social distancing for purposes of religious worship are forbidden, regardless of whether remote worship is practical or not.
Places of worship are not permitted to hold religious worship services until Stage 3. However, in Stage 2, schools, restaurants, factories, offices, shopping malls, swap meets, and others are permitted to operate with social distancing.
Whatever level of restrictions you adopt, these civil rights protections mandate equal treatment of persons and activities of a secular and religious nature.
Time for Newsom to step down from his high horse and start reopening businesses. Read the rest of the story here.
Image Credit: Los Angeles Times