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Harmeet Dhillon. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Center for American Liberty Sues Gov. Newsom, AG Becerra and Many County Officials Over Church Ban

If a Californian can go to Costco, the local marijuana shop or liquor store, then he or she must be allowed to practice their faith

By Katy Grimes, April 13, 2020 5:08 pm

‘The Constitution does not only guarantee religious liberty on Easter Sunday, or only to Christians. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right and the government must respect the dignity of all persons, regardless of their faith background, to exercise their faith according to the dictates of one’s conscience.’  ~Attorney Harmeet Dhillon


Last week California Globe reported on the major religious liberty victory for churches in San Bernardino County, thanks to the Center for American Liberty and the Dhillon Law Group, which sent demand letters to Riverside County and San Bernardino County, which had banned all religious services, including Easter services, not online with an April 7th order. “The Order expressly prohibited residents from leaving their homes for drive-in services.” Riverside County had not responded to attorneys Harmeet Dhillon and Mark Meuser when the Globe first reported last week.

Monday, the Center for American Liberty, again in coordination with the Dhillon Law Group, filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and named San Bernardino county supervisors, Riverside County supervisors, county sheriffs, and county health officers, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, for criminalizing the free exercise of religion.

“The suit comes days after the Center for American Liberty threatened County Supervisors with such a lawsuit,” the Center reported. “In response, both San Bernardino County and Riverside Counties made limited accommodations for practicing Christians on Easter weekend only.”

San Bernardino’s stay-at-home order was extensive and restrictive:

In an effort to protect the public from further spread of COVID-19, the County’s Acting Health Officer has formally ordered everyone in San Bernardino County to wear a face covering when leaving home.

Face coverings may include coverings that secure to the ears or back of the head and encompass the mouth and nose. Homemade cloth ear loop covers, bandannas and handkerchiefs, and neck gaiters may be used to reduce the spread of COVID-19 particularly among asymptomatic people. Surgical masks and N95 masks must be preserved for healthcare workers and emergency responders.

“Staying home, practicing social distancing and frequent handwashing are far more effective ways to combat the spread of COVID-19, and face coverings are not a substitute for those practices,” said Dr. Erin Gustafson, the County’s Acting Public Health Officer.

Tuesday’s order also says faith-based services must be electronic only through streaming or online technology. People may not leave their homes for driving parades or drive-up services or to pick up non-essential items such as pre-packaged Easter eggs or bags filled with candy and toys at a drive-thru location.

Riverside County’s stay-at-home order was as restrictive:

Drive-up church services that practice proper social distancing will be allowed this weekend in Riverside County, although the order to prohibit such activities will remain after Easter Sunday.

Riverside County even launched a mobile app so residents could rat out “nonessential businesses.”

“Criminalizing individual participation at a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other house of worship clearly violates the First Amendment,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, Chief Executive Officer for the Center for American Liberty. “The state and localities have granted sweeping exceptions to the shutdown orders for favored businesses and professions, while specifically targeting people of faith and decreeing to religious institutions that it is ‘good enough’ that they be allowed to offer streaming video services. The state does not get to dictate the method of worship to the faithful.”

“This past weekend both San Bernardino County and Riverside County allowed practicing Christians to congregate, in varying capacities, outside their homes to celebrate Easter,” said Dhillon. “While giving in to criticism and respecting Christians’ right to religious liberty on Easter Sunday was undeniably the right decision by County Supervisors, the government may not selectively license religious liberty to Christians on Easter Sunday.”

As the Globe reported last week, “The free exercise of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution, and it is time that government recognize it as such,” attorney Dhillon said. “During a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, religious organizations and services are more important than ever to the faithful, and any arbitrary barriers that purport to assign a second-class importance to religion must fall.”

“If a Californian is able to go to Costco or the local marijuana shop or liquor store and buy goods in a responsible, socially distanced manner, then he or she must be allowed to practice their faith using the same precautions,” Dhillon said.

See the Center for American Liberty website to read the lawsuit. The Globe will continue to report on the state and this religious liberty issue.

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14 thoughts on “Center for American Liberty Sues Gov. Newsom, AG Becerra and Many County Officials Over Church Ban

  1. CHURCHES and Religious gathers are not above the law its is common sence the spread of the Coronavirus is spread thur gatherings of groups of people and associated with two or more people in the public Health interest all churches SHOULD be CLOSED during any pandemic

    1. You are correct Churches are not above the law.

      The law is the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

      No government Federal, State, or local have the authority to close Churches, Synagogues, or any other house of worship for any reason including a Pandemic.

    2. You got that all wrong. Freedom of religion IS THE LAW. Restrictions against it are violations of the law

    3. Bryan Sherbino,
      Corona is not anywhere as bad as they said it was going to be. I guess you dont see more than one person at the grocery stores? Is it being spread?

    4. Uhmmm, yes, churches and religion is not above the law, but separate from the law. They protections in place that must be adhered to and may be in conflict with current laws for citizens and businesses. So on a sense, churches are untouchable. Read the Constitution of the United States of America…then read it again.

      “No government Federal, State, or local have the authority to close Churches, Synagogues, or any other house of worship for any reason including a Pandemic.”

  2. Sorry “Charlie”, you missed the entire point of the article. The state, county and city governments are being selective (using their own opinions or bias) concerning what business, church, or group can be open to the public.
    “If a Californian is able to go to Costco or the local marijuana shop or liquor store [?!?] and buy goods in a responsible, socially distanced manner, then he or she must be allowed to practice their faith using the same precautions,” Dhillon said. It’s called equality guaranteed by the law of the land-The Constitution!

  3. As a San Bernardino disabled combat veteran family of the 82nd Airborne, we are thankful for these attorneys fighting for our basic human rights; TBI and PTSD from combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom…where is Operation California Freedom? My grandfather, a US Marine rifleman “grunt” was wounded twice in Korea… countless brave warriors have given the ultimate sacrifice for our FREEDOM! So much bloodshed for freedom abroad, where is OUR freedom now? What have we been fighting for as Americans for over 200 years? Give me liberty or give me death! I’m going to heaven. Faith over fear. God bless you

    1. Hey I was with 82ABN. IN N.C.

  4. Romans: 13: 1-10
    13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

  5. I apologize if I’m being too blunt here,, but let me be clear. This whole thing is a complete fraud and as a power-play for big Pharma to come out with a new vaccine that’s completely unnecessary. It manipulated the media and the people all over the world to do this. The pharmaceutical companies will make hundreds of billions of dollars on a new vaccine and billions more on their new drugs that are all completely unnecessary. New research just came out yesterday from Stanford university showing that the virus is 50 to 80 times less dangerous than originally thought. Basically the same as the flu. You don’t shut down a country, or worse yet the world.. over the flu. Of course not. There have been numerous experts from USC, Stanford, Rockefeller University, etc. epidemiologist, PhD’s, medical doctors etc. stating that this whole thing has been overblown and we should’ve never shut down the country.
    Here’s one from USC that has impeccable credentials. There are numerous others.


    His credentials are unquestionable. Take a look.
    He has authored more than 600 peer-reviewed scientific articles, abstracts, editorials and reports in the fields of pharmaceutical economics, health economics, outcomes research, disease management, statistics, econometrics, epidemiology and healthcare.

  6. Please initiate a recall of governor Newsome. He gives $75million to illegals who are taking jobs away from American citizens that could be used for Homeless Americans. Then, Governor Newsome makes a fascistic order to close Orange County Beaches probably due to pressure from rich people who did not like to see the unemployed people rushing to use the beautiful beaches (creating traffic ) during their time off work. He has closed ALL businesses instead of giving the people choices with social distancing. He is not interested in the freedom of people in the United States of America and keep issuing fascistic orders like a mean dictator. In North Korea people cannot worship and he has closed all places of worship in the name of Coronavirus, as though people are stupid and do not know how to protect themselves. As Patrick Henry said: give me liberty or give me death.

  7. People can have religious ceremonies and worship with wisdom. Open the places people pray. It is for our mental health. We are not China. We depend on prayer and God where two or more are gathered…..so you see.

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