California hasn’t put a big priority on allowing places of worship to open their doors, but the Justice Department says that they need to reconsider that quickly.
Attorney General William Barr had promised faith leaders that the Trump Justice Department would stand firm and protect them from religious discrimination by state and local governments during the pandemic.
The ClashDaily 411 on that is right here:
It seems that the DOJ is taking issue with the Governor of California’s “Pandemic Roadmap” because it appears to discriminate against religious groups by putting a low priority on their re-opening.
California is currently in Stage 2 of reopening, which is allowing some “lower risk” businesses to reopen with strict modifications to allow for social distancing.
Newsom’s approach allows offices, retail businesses, shopping malls, and even schools to reopen in the second phase while houses of worship are prohibited from holding in-person services until the third phase. At the time of the announcement of California’s 4-stage plan to reopen, he said that the state was “months away” from Stage 3, but now he’s saying that could be as early as June.
The problem is that the staged approach already discriminates against places of worship.
“This facially discriminates against religious exercise,” the letter says. “California has not shown why interactions in offices and studios of the entertainment industry, and in-person operations to facilitate nonessential ecommerce, are included on the list as being allowed with social distancing where telework is not practical, while gatherings with social distancing for purposes of religious worship are forbidden, regardless of whether remote worship is practical or not.”…
…California’s halt on religious services has already prompted legal battles and defiant stands from faith leaders who have kept their churches open. Federal judges have so far rejected legal requests to allow their services to resume.
But the Department of Justice said those rulings “do not justify California’s actions” and asserted that “reopening plans cannot unfairly burden religious services as California has done.”
“We believe, for the reasons outlined above, that the Constitution calls for California to do more to accommodate religious worship, including in Stage 2 of the Reopening Plan,” the letter said.
Harmeet Dhillon, the attorney who was spearheading the legal challenges against California’s restrictions against churches believes that this DOJ letter vindicates her actions, “Literally, this country was founded on the concept that the king cannot tell the peasants how they may worship Gov. Newsom may not tell people of faith that they can only worship in their homes.”
It’s nice to know that the Department of Justice is back to ensuring that American citizens are treated justly rather than just being used as a tool used to punish political enemies.