Three California churches are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom and public health officials over a ban on singing and chanting during religious services amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Hill reports.
On Wednesday, several advocacy groups, including the American Center for Law & Justice, filed the federal suit on behalf of Calvary Chapel of Ukiah, Calvary Chapel Fort Bragg and River of Life Church.
The suit claims that Newsom’s July 1 order prohibiting singing and chanting in places of worship violates the churches’ constitutional rights.
The suit alleges that the order targets places of worship unfairly. The churches argue that Newsom supported protests calling for police reform that included chanting.
Public health officials recently stated that singing can increase germ particles in the air and possibly lead to more virus infections.
“Despite the ongoing and even increasing restrictions on the protected First Amendment rights to freely assemble and engage in religious exercise as it relates to places of worship, Newsom has been unwavering in his support of massive protests in California,” the lawsuit said.
Executive director of the ACLJ Jordan Sekulow blasted Newsom’s order, calling it an “unconstitutional abuse of power.”
“And to do it in the name of a pandemic is despicable,” he said in a statement. “This ban is clearly targeted at religion. It is clearly a violation of the First Amendment and a direct violation of religious liberty.”
ACLJ teamed up with Tyler & Bursch, The National Center for Law and Policy and Advocates for Faith & Freedom as the churches’ legal team.
Several of the attorneys involved have already challenged Newsom’s previous orders affecting places of worship during the coronavirus outbreak.
Robert Tyler of Tyler & Bursch stated, “Let me be clear, the State does not have the jurisdiction to ban houses of worship from singing praises to God.”
On Monday, Newsom ordered bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues to shut down. He also announced that 30 counties are on a watchlist and could be required to close certain businesses. The lawsuit points out the counties where the churches are located are not part of the watchlist.
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