California Church to get $1.3 million as compensation for restriction on worship services


Last November, the U.S. high court cancelled restrictions on churches in New York state. Subsequently, a series of rulings which prevented other states from giving more restriction orders on churches than other gatherings were issued, including California. 

However, last Friday, a U.S. district judge released an order which totally seals the recent Supreme Court precedent. This precedent mandates the state from issuing or enforcing "any capacity or numerical restrictions on religious worship services."

The order from the District Judge Jesus G. Bernal last Friday came with a lawsuit filed by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Harvest International Ministry and Harvest Rock Church.

Having disregarded the order by the Supreme Court, the Pasadena congregation is owed $1.3 million by the state of California for attorneys' fees. Consequently, Bernal has ordered the state to pay the said amount for costs and attorney fees. Besides, Bernal’s order declared Harvest International and Harvest Rock as prevailing parties. The Supreme Court precedent from last year was also cited by Bernal. 

In his statement, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver said,

"Governor Gavin Newsom's COVID restrictions intentionally discriminated against churches while providing preferential treatment to many secular businesses and gatherings. The Supreme Court intervened multiple times to provide relief. 

"California may never again place discriminatory restrictions on churches and places of worship. Governor Gavin Newsom has now been permanently quarantined and may not violate the First Amendment rights of churches and places of worship again."

It is pertinent to note that at a particular time, the pastor of Harvest Rock, Ché Ahn was threatened with jail by the local government for violating COVID restrictions. In his response to the court’s decision, Ahn said that it is a "momentous day for churches in America." He also expressed his gratitude to Liberty Counsel and his attorney, Mat Staver, for their undying support and determination. 

"I am thrilled to see the complete reversal of the last discriminatory restrictions against churches in California, knowing this case will act as a precedent, not only in our state, but also in our nation. 

"We are incredibly grateful to our attorney Mat Staver and to Liberty Counsel for their relentless support and fierce determination. Most of all, we give all the glory to God for moving mightily in this historic season!" Ahn said.

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