BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A California court is standing up for religious freedom by slapping down an executive order that effectively closes churches.
On Thursday, California Superior Court judge Gregory Pulskamp blocked an order by leftist California governor Gavin Newsom, whose Blueprint for a Safer Economy — unveiled on Sept. 28 — relegated churches as "non-essential" during the Wuhan virus scare.
The lawsuit was launched a day later by Fr. Trevor Burfitt, a member the Society of St. Pius X, an organization that's not in full communion with the Catholic Church. He sued Newsom and 19 other state officials, asserting Newsom's order suppresses religious liberty.
Judge Pulskamp agreed.
"[E]ven in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten," He said, adding, "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty."
Newsom claimed his order doesn't infringe upon religious freedom, noting that people can still attend virtual services by television or by online streaming. The court, however, disagreed, noting that according to Catholics, "remote viewing is not the same as personal attendance."
The judge also noted, "shoppers at a Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, etc. may — and frequently do — congregate in numbers, proximity and duration that is very comparable to worshippers in houses of worship."
The difference, he added, is that "almost all of the entities that are allowed to host indoor operations do not engage in activity that is constitutionally protected, whereas houses of worship do."
Burfitt's legal counsel, the Thomas More Society, agrees with Pulskamp's ruling:
After more than nine months of tyranny in the name of 'containing the spread' of a virus they have failed to contain, the gubernatorial dictators presiding over draconian lockdowns are running out of runway on their claim that churches are somehow more dangerous viral vectors than any of the litany of "essential businesses" crowded with customers that they allow to operate at 100% capacity.
The U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for this decision in November by slapping down an executive order by leftist fake-Catholic New York governor Andrew Cuomo, whose Oct. 6 executive order restricted in-person worship to 25 people or fewer. Both the diocese of Brooklyn and several Orthodox Jewish communities sued Cuomo, arguing the executive order made it "impossible" to "exercise their religious faith."
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Christopher Ferrara observed the relationship between the High Court decision and the recent ruling in California.
"The Supreme Court's decision in Brooklyn Diocese v. Cuomo has opened the way to the liberation of churches from the absurd and bigoted superstition that they are veritable death chambers threatening the entire population," Ferrara remarked.
In a third case involving religious freedom, the Supreme Court last week sided with California-based Harvest Rock Church. It kicked the lawsuit back down to a lower federal court, demanding it rehear the case in light of the Supreme Court's ruling against Cuomo.
At a press conference on Thursday, leftist Virginia governor Ralph Northam claimed churches were practically super-spreaders for the Wuhan virus. He insisted that if people go to their places of worship, they will "contract the virus, then go out to their place of work or the grocery store, the convenience store, wherever."
In March, Northam issued an executive order declaring "All public and private in-person gatherings of 10 or more individuals are prohibited." He threatened violators with a misdemeanor, punishable with "confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both."
It's not yet known if Newsom will appeal Pulskamp's decision to a higher court.