Despite President Donald Trump’s statement during a press briefing on Friday that religious services would be considered “essential” operations during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, a Federal Appeals Court ruled the same day that the California Governor’s order banning in-person religious services is binding.
The South Bay United Pentecostal Church challenged Governor Gavin Newsom’s May 4th stay-at-home order as enforced against places of worship. The California Department of Health is currently in the early stages of phase 2 of their resilience roadmap which plans to reopen establishments progressively by category on a county-by-county basis.
The church in this case filed an emergency motion for injunctive relief in order to hold in-person religious services. The court held, however, that the state action does not infringe on religious rights with a motive of targeting religion. The court stated that the church was not likely to suffer irreparable harm and the coronavirus is sufficiently dangerous to permit the temporary ban. Thus, the court denied the request for injunctive relief.
In an 18 page dissent, Judge Daniel Collins considered the order to be a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and would have granted the injunction.