Religious freedom in this country took another blow this week when a judge upheld restrictions on worship put in place by California’s Democrat governor, Gavin Newsom.
The judge ruled that Pastor Rob McCoy and Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks may not hold indoor services until at least August 31.
The decision came after the county sued for a restraining order against the church, which defied Newsom’s July order banning indoor worship services and singing or chanting during worship in much of the state.
The ruling in the case was disappointing but not altogether unexpected.
This case was very similar to the case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in May: South Bay United Pentecostal v. Newsom.
That ruling was used as a precedent by Ventura County Judge Matthew Guasco to grant the county’s request by issuing a temporary restraining order against the church. The order expires on August 31. According to the Ventura County Star, the church “may offer services remotely or in outdoor settings with the wearing of masks and social distancing observed.”
Judge Guasco stated that he agreed with the previous decision that there should be a “balance between individual liberty and the government’s police power to protect the exercise of individual liberty if it threatens the public welfare and health.”
He also added, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact. The exercise of individual liberties has to be consistent with public health, otherwise the one would cancel out the other.”
Pandemic over constitutional rights
Courts today are drawing some very interesting lines when it comes to the loss of constitutional rights in the name of safety. If protesters have the right to gather and protest during a pandemic, why is it that congregations wanting to worship lose their rights? Why is the right to chant during a protest more important than the right to chant or sing during worship?
Today’s courts, however, have somehow separated the two, deciding which constitutional rights can and cannot be suspended during a pandemic.
The tricky part of this to navigate is that churches can put safety measures in place that are all but impossible to put in place during a protest. For instance, worshipers can be required to take a temperature check, sanitize their hands, wear a mask, and even have them take a quick result COVID-19 test before entering the church, all measures that would be impossible to have in place during a protest.
So, again, we ask, why is the constitutional right of religious freedom lost while the right to protest remains guaranteed?