After several rulings that favored churches rights when it came to holding indoor services, a ruling came down on Wednesday that was a setback.
But in Los Angeles County — where the guidelines have been the strictest and the area has been among the hardest hit by COVID-19 — temporary relief was actually given to churches.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled 2-1 against Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church in its continued legal battle to hold indoor worship services. The court ruled against an emergency induction filed by the Pasadena-based church to overrule Governor Gavin Newsom's guidelines when it comes to restricting indoor worship services.
Judges Morgan Christen, a Barack Obama appointee, and Johnnie Rawlinson, a Bill Clinton appointee, ruled in favor of Newsom's guidelines, while Ronald Reagan appointee Diarmuid O'Scannlain ruled against Newsom's guidelines.
The emergency injunction was filed to allow the Pasadena-based church to at least meet on Christmas Day. In ruling against Newsom's guidelines — at least to allow churches to meet on Christmas Day — O'Scannlain stated “The requested deadline is hardly arbitrary.”
But L.A. County churches were still be allowed to meet. Just before the judges' ruling, L.A. County loosened its guidelines to allow for socially distanced gatherings indoors and outdoors. Outdoor church services are still allowed.
But outside of L.A. County in virtually the rest of the state, indoor services aren't allowed. Even when the stay-at-home order will be lifted — and it's virtually certain it will be some time before that happens — in much of the state, Newsom's guidelines don't allow for indoor services in purple counties outside of L.A. County. And limits are also placed on the size of indoor services in counties in less restrictive tiers.
So the Pasadena-based church will continue to oppose Newsom's guidelines to allow churches outside of L.A. County to meet as well.
It could be L.A. County is taking the lead other counties could follow. L.A. County is allowing indoor services as a result of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that COVID-19 restrictions violate religious freedoms.
And it's still up to churches on what to do. In a letter he issued, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez said although indoor worship was permitted within L.A. county, outdoor gatherings were safer and still strongly encouraged.
When it comes to California the Supreme Court has instructed a lower federal court to reevaluate its ruling to uphold Newsom's guidelines. In its instruction, the Supreme Court has instructed the lower court to consider the Supreme Court's rulings in other states which have ruled restrictions on churches are Unconstitutional.