Court upholds ban on in-person church services in California

Courts and the Judiciary

An appeals court has upheld California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on in-person church services amid the coronavirus pandemic, in a split ruling that found that government’s emergency powers override what in normal times would be fundamental constitutional rights.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in San Diego cannot reopen immediately, the Los Angeles Times reported. In this case “constitutional standards that would normally govern our review of a Free Exercise claim should not be applied,” the two judges in the majority wrote in their order.

“We’re dealing here with a highly contagious and often fatal disease for which there presently is no known cure. In the words of Justice Robert Jackson, if a ‘(c)ourt does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact,’” they wrote.

The decision is likely to further anger opponents who claim that California’s rules to stop the spread of the virus violate religious freedoms.

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