A megachurch in California filed a lawsuit against the state on Saturday challenging its restrictions on houses of worship. The suit says the governor’s mandates include an unlawful ban on “in-home Bible studies.”
‘Total Prohibition’ on Religious Gatherings
Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, CA has filed a lawsuit against prohibitions by Gov. Gavin Newsom and state officials that limit “in-person religious gatherings.” The state mandate, which has been implemented across 30 counties, also bands corporate singing.
Liberty Counsel, which is representing Harvest Church and it’s associated ministries, says the church follows the necessary protocol for in-person worship. The church requires masks, takes temperatures, and enforcing social distancing.
The lawsuit alleges Newsom’s order violates the church’s “constitutionally protected freedoms of religion, speech and assembly.”
“While the Governor has unilaterally and significantly restricted the number of individuals permitted to ‘gather’ in Plaintiffs’ churches, he has imposed no similar restrictions on the untold thousands of protesters who have gathered all throughout California cities with no threat of criminal sanction, and no social distancing or restrictions whatsoever.” the suit says.
“And, the Governor explicitly encouraged such large gatherings of protesters while condemning churches for singing hymns in their churches.”
Banning ‘In-Home Bible Studies’
Harvest Church’s lawsuit is unique, however, in that it targets California’s ban on in-home Bible studies. According to the suit, the church has “numerous Life Groups, which meet in the homes of members.”
Additionally, many of Harvest International’s member churches meet in the homes of their members “to engage in Bible study.”
Under the governor’s directive, this isn’t permissible.
“As a result of the Governor’s orders, Plaintiffs have been prohibited from engaging in the critical ministries of home group Bible studies and programs. The governor’s orders prohibit them from leaving their homes for such gatherings,” the suit says.
The lawsuit has asked that the court overturn the state’s restrictions on churches. In fact, it argues the “governor has imposed an unconscionable and unconstitutional burden on Plaintiffs’ religious exercise.”
“The governor is not the High Priest over all religions,” Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver said. “Gov. Newsom encourages thousands of protesters to gather in the streets but bans in-person worship and home Bible studies and fellowship. This discriminatory treatment is unconstitutional.”
Harvest Pastor Responds During Sermon
On Monday evening, Harvest Church posted a video clip on Facebook of Pastor Papa Ché Ahn’s sermon from Sunday. The post includes the following caption: