‘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.’
The Center for American Liberty and the Dhillon Law Group just announced a major religious liberty victory for churches in San Bernardino County.
On behalf of clients residing in Riverside County and San Bernardino County, California, attorneys sent demand letters earlier this week to county officials in both counties demanding the immediate rescission of two orders—first, the April 6, 2020 “Amended Order of the Health Officer of the County of Riverside and of the County Executive Officer as Director of Emergency Services,” and second the April 7, 2020 “Order of the Health Officer of the County of San Bernardino for the Control of COVID-19.”
The Center said San Bernardino County banned all religious services not online with their April 7th order. “The Order expressly prohibited residents from leaving their homes for drive-in services.”
“Public health is a compelling government interest,” attorney Harmeet Dhillon said in a statement following notification of the demand letter. “But there are better ways for county officials to achieve this end that do not include banning all out-of-home religious expression, disproportionately burdening the poor by requiring residents to wears masks outside the home, or violating the Constitution.”
“Last night’s response from the County to the Center for American Liberty promises that all religious services, not just drive-in services, can take place so long as responsible social distancing measures are implemented,” the Center reported.
“Religious services will be allowed in San Bernardino county this weekend as long as the churches practice the same social distancing requirements as are mandated for grocery stores, laundromats, and marijuana dispensaries,” attorney Mark Meuser with the Dhillon Law Group said on social media.
“We are thrilled that San Bernardino County re-evaluated its previous position and will no longer threaten practicing Christians with criminal penalties for attending Easter services this weekend,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Liberty. “However, 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.”
“The Center for American Liberty will continue to advocate for religious liberty for the residents of San Bernardino County, the state of California, and for the country as a whole. It is both arbitrary and unconstitutional for government to deem liquor stores and pot dispensaries ‘essential,’ while shutting down churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples as ‘nonessential.’”
“The free exercise of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution, and it is time that government recognize it as such,” 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.”
The attorneys say Riverside County has not responded.