A California church is suing Gov. Gavin Newsom for banning all indoor worship services, including Bible studies, and singing, saying the restrictions violate their religious freedom. Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry filed the lawsuit in an attempt to block enforcement of Newsom’s orders which target churches. The church has many “Life Groups” which are home Bible studies and fellowship groups where people come together to share and learn about the Word of God. These are now forbidden under Gov. Newsom’s recent orders. CBN News previously reported that Newsom announced on July 13 that all indoor gatherings, including church services, must cease due to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Liberty Counsel, a religious rights law group who is representing the church says that the governor’s actions are contradictory as he recently encouraged thousands of people to gather for protests against social injustice. “Governor Newsom cannot disregard the First Amendment and ban all worship in private homes and churches,” said Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver. “Nor can the state ban singing or chanting. The governor is not the High Priest over all religions.” “There is not two First Amendments, one for protests and one for houses of worship. Gov. Newsom encourages thousands of protesters to gather in the streets but bans in-person worship and home Bible studies and fellowship. This is unconstitutional,” Staver added.
The church declares that in times of “trouble and distress,” members “are to sing aloud to the Lord.” Lead Pastor Che Ahn defended the church saying, “I want us to pray that we will win that court case. No one is above the Constitution. No one is above the law.” “That’s unprecedented. Never, in the history of America, has an elected official told a church not to worship. It was a tremendous violation of our First Amendment rights.” Harvest Rock, which has more than 100 affiliated churches throughout California, states that it “cannot fulfil its vital ministry and sincere religious beliefs without gathering together in person and that it cannot effectively engage in its constitutionally protected free exercise of religion on the internet.”