Gateway City Church v. Newsom
Santa Clara County has ordered all churches to remain closed during Lent and Easter, contrary to the United States Supreme Court’s order in South Bay Pentecostal Church v. Newsom (“South Bay II”). On February 5, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that enjoined California’s total ban on indoor worship. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, California complied, amending its orders to allow indoor worship at 25% of capacity. But one California county, Santa Clara County, then issued its own county-specific worship ban, thumbing its nose at the Supreme Court’s ruling. After a group of churches sued, the case went to the United States Supreme Court. Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San José at the Supreme Court on February 24, 2021. Becket’s brief asks the Court to stop the County’s flouting of the Court’s earlier rulings in Diocese of Brooklyn and South Bay II and allow Catholic churches in Santa Clara County to reopen during this holy season.
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U.S. Supreme Court ended California’s draconian worship ban
On February 5, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated California’s complete ban on indoor worship. Previously, California had the most severe restrictions in the nation when it came to in-person worship, banning indoor worship altogether while allowing secular businesses like Hollywood film studios and big-box retailers to open. In South Bay II, the Supreme Court recognized that California’s total ban on worship violated freedom of religion.
In response to the Supreme Court decision, the very next day California lifted its ban on indoor worship, allowing churches to open with indoor worship at 25% of capacity.
Santa Clara County goes against U.S. Supreme Court
Churches across the state have opened for indoor worship, allowing churchgoers to gather together with proven safety precautions. But Santa Clara County refuses to comply with the Supreme Court’s decisions in South Bay II and Diocese of Brooklyn. Instead, the County has ordered all churches to remain closed through Lent and Easter, preventing people from gathering to worship together as their faiths demand.
Diocese of San José, with Becket’s help, files to support houses of worship
On February 24, 2021, Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Diocese of San José at the United States Supreme Court. Banning indoor worship is unconstitutional—and the Supreme Court has said so several times, but they repeated the message again on February 27, 2021, forcing Santa Clara County to drop its ban on worship and allowing the Diocese of San José to reopen churches for Lent and Easter worship.
Importance to Religious Liberty:
Religious communities: Meeting together to worship is an important part of almost all religious or spiritual traditions worldwide. The government cannot discriminate against religious believers by violating their rights to gather together or by subjecting them to unfair restrictions that privilege other activities over the unalienable right to worship.