The DOJ Tells Newsom To Stop Discriminating Against Christians
California is not fully opened yet. Governor Gavin Newsom has been opening the State in phases and religious groups are upset as they are still be told that restaurants and other public places are allowed open while churches are going to have to wait. But the Department of Justice is claiming the Newsom needs to stop discriminating and allow for places of worship to open.
"The head of the federal Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division told Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday that his plan to reopen California discriminates against churches.
In a letter to the governor, Eric S. Dreiband said that despite a coronavirus pandemic “that is unprecedented in our lifetimes,” Newsom should allow some in-person worship under the current second phase of his four-part reopening plan.
Restaurants and other secular businesses are being allowed to reopen under social distancing guidelines but not churches, which are limited to online and similar services.
That places an “unfair burden” on them that violates civil rights protections through “unequal treatment of faith communities,” the letter said.
“Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights,” said the letter.
Dreiband also quoted A.G. William Barr's statement on a similar case in Mississippi.
"...Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the first amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers. Thus, government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity. For example, if a government allows movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other comparable places of assembly to remain open and unrestricted, it may not order houses of worship to close, limit their congregation size, or otherwise impede religious gatherings. Religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens."
"The letter to Newsom doesn’t threaten immediate legal action but appears to be a warning to the nation’s most populous state. The prosecutors follow a line of argument used in the church lawsuits in saying that the religious groups can provide safe, socially distanced worship."
This seems like a missed opportunity. The DOJ should have come down on Newsom more explaining that people need a place to worship and opening all of these other public places excluding churches, is a snub to religion. Far more people frequent restaurants and other public places on a daily basis than they do places of worship. Churches are also far cleaner than your typical fast food place. So it appears this is a very biased opening of the State.