As a result of a lawsuit filed by the Center for American Liberty, drive-in church services are now permitted in California.
The Center for American Liberty also requested a temporary restraining order against the state’s bans on religious services due to the coronavirus. The Center for American Liberty named two counties, Riverside and San Bernardino, in the lawsuit.
After Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed their brief in response to the temporary restraining order, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties announced the drive-in church services would be allowed.
Newsom and Becerra stated because cars are “technology,” drive-in church services are permitted under the state’s shelter-in-place rule.
Riverside County released its final amended order which references the governor’s and attorney General’s opposition to the temporary restraining order.
The order states: “the State confirmed that in-person services are prohibited but clarified that “…drive-in worship services are permitted under the existing Executive Order, which expressly allows ‘faith based services that are provided through…other technology.”
San Bernardino County’s press release states, “The state has declared that drive-in worship services are allowed ‘as long as the individuals engaged in such services abide by physical distancing guidelines and refrain from direct and indirect physical touching of others.”
“This is heartening progress for our clients, and all Californians” said Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Liberty, Harmeet K. Dhillon. “But while this is a step in the right direction, it is still not enough.
“The state is still holding houses of worship to a different standard. AG Barr’s statement on Tuesday was clear, states cannot have two sets of restrictions — those that apply to churches and the more relaxed standards that apply to other entities. The State’s orders still do not define worship as an essential activity that permits travel in California, even while at the same time the state is now saying drive-in worship is permissible. The orders are riddled with contradictory and confusing language.
“Even after these policy changes, houses of worship are still very limited in their permissible activities. Many of these activities provide immeasurable societal good, be it delivering food to the elderly, hosting addiction support groups, providing spiritual comfort and counseling for Californians in crisis, and so many other essential services.”
Last week, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr issued a statement condemning restrictions on houses of worship that aren’t applied “evenhandedly” to all businesses.
“We intend to pursue this case until all Californians are restored the full free exercise of religion guaranteed to all Americans under the Constitution,” Dhillon said.