Gov. Gavin Newsom Ordered to Pay $1.35M to Church over Crippling Lockdown Measures
Governor can no longer place pandemic restrictions on houses of worship
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been hit with a massive $1.35 million settlement bill following a lawsuit from a Los Angeles church over his coronavirus restrictions.
The settlement terms state Newsom can no longer place coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship.
Founder of the Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, who represented the Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena, branded Newsom the "worst governor in America" for religious freedom, the Washington Examiner reported.
"The church stayed open [during the lockdown], and the pastor and parishioners were threatened with daily criminal charges that were up to a year in prison," Staver said.
The settlement amount will pay the church's attorney costs and fees for the lawsuit brought against Newsom last year.
The Rev. Ché Ahn, the founder of the church, said in a statement:
"After nearly a yearlong battle defending our religious freedoms, our lawsuit has reached a permanent settlement in our favor."
"I am thrilled to see the complete reversal of the last discriminatory restrictions against churches in California."
Newsom ordered restrictions to allow 25% capacity in churches as long as it didn’t exceed 100 people in May last year.
After months of highly publicized legal battles against churches, Newsom finally lifted all capacity restrictions on houses of worship in April.
The change was reflected in California’s COVID-19 guidance:
“In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended,” the guidelines now read.
In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the church could allow 200 worshippers inside but said bans against singing and chanting could remain.
Newsom is now facing a recall election in the fall launched by critics of his coronavirus restrictions.
"Gov. Newsom’s COVID restrictions intentionally discriminated against churches while providing preferential treatment to many secular businesses and gatherings," Staver said, according to the Examiner.
"What’s important is this ruling is permanent."
"He cannot ever do this again."
Newsom's office told Newsweek in a statement:
The settlement "resolves this case while providing clarity and certainty to the public around the public health standards applicable to places of worship following recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court."