Liberty Counsel filed a reply memorandum of law in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on behalf of Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry against Governor Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 orders prohibiting all indoor worship services in most of the state and “singing and chanting” in the counties not on the “County Monitoring List.” Yet, Newsom encourages mass gatherings of protestors. The governor’s unconstitutional orders include home Bible studies and fellowship.
Harvest International Ministry includes 162 churches in California and 65,000 affiliate churches and ministries worldwide.
The lawsuit challenges both the total ban on in-person worship (including in private homes) in the counties on the “County Monitoring List,” and the ban on singing and chanting in the remaining counties. In addition to in-person worship at Harvest Rock Church, the church also has many “Life Groups,” which are home Bible studies and fellowship groups. These too are now prohibited under Gov. Newsom’s recent orders. Yet while he discriminates against churches and houses of worship, including home Bible study and fellowship meetings, Gov. Newsom continues to encourage thousands of protestors to gather throughout the state.
In Governor Newsom’s response to the motion for the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, he argues that churches are not “essential.” Regarding feeding, counseling and housing people in the same building where worship services occur, Newsom argues that only the worship services should be prohibited while the other non-religious services should be allowed.
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Concerning home Bible studies, Newsom argues that he has authority to prohibit home fellowship groups. As to protests, Newsom admits he does encourage them and supports their violation of his orders, but he encourages protestors to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Governor Gavin Newsom encourages tens of thousands of people to gather for mass protests, but he bans all in-person worship and home Bible studies and fellowship. The governor cannot disregard the First Amendment, nor can the state micromanage the form of worship by banning singing or chanting. This discriminatory treatment is unconstitutional.”