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US judge denies bid to open California churches in pandemic

A federal judge on Wednesday says he will deny a bid by three Southern California churches to hold in-person church services during the pandemic.

Posted: Apr 22, 2020 4:52 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday said he will deny a bid by three Southern California churches to hold in-person church services during the pandemic, saying that the government’s emergency powers trump what in normal times would be fundamental constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal in Los Angeles said he will reject the temporary restraining order the churches sought against Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials. They argued that the state’s stay-at-home orders violate the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and assembly.

“During the state of emergency the executive powers are in effect, in that they are empowered to provide for emergency remedies which may infringe on fundamental constitutional rights,” Bernal said the end of the hour-long hearing. He said he will soon issue a formal ruling.

Many churches have been holding online services. California officials on Friday said religious organizations can have drive-in services so long as congregants don’t have personal contact.

Attorney Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican Party official and chief executive of the nonprofit Center for American Liberty, argued that it is unfair for the state to allow people to attend to other needs that have been deemed essential, like going to the grocery store or picking up meals, while blocking religious services that she said for many believers are as important as eating.

But state Deputy Attorney General Todd Grabarsky said during the hearing held by teleconference that religious organizations are not being singled out by rules that similarly restrict gatherings at concerts, nightclubs, schools — even in-person court hearings.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 310885

Reported Deaths: 6955
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1274393744
Riverside24765537
Orange22650412
San Diego18863420
San Bernardino18275304
Imperial7759132
Fresno762787
Alameda7485147
San Joaquin627968
Kern619597
Santa Clara5863166
Tulare5678152
Sacramento515279
Contra Costa446088
Stanislaus436450
San Francisco431650
Ventura409353
Santa Barbara386829
San Mateo3846112
Marin336430
Kings285539
Monterey241918
Solano207528
Merced179312
Sonoma156114
Placer102111
San Luis Obispo9054
Madera8578
Yolo83928
Santa Cruz5373
Napa4774
Butte3384
Sutter3374
San Benito3112
El Dorado3070
Lassen2610
Shasta1766
Humboldt1654
Glenn1640
Nevada1631
Yuba1633
Lake1081
Mendocino1070
Colusa1030
Tehama981
Calaveras670
Tuolumne640
Del Norte600
Mono491
Siskiyou410
Amador360
Inyo341
Mariposa311
Plumas170
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
97° wxIcon
Hi: 103° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 97°
Oroville
Clear
98° wxIcon
Hi: 104° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 98°
Paradise
Clear
97° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 97°
Chester
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 91°
Red Bluff
Clear
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Hi: 104° Lo: 68°
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Willows
Clear
97° wxIcon
Hi: 106° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 97°
A hot week will transform into an even hotter weekend over northern California as high pressure stays in control of our weather. No rain is in the forecast, but it will cool a bit by late next week.
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