California Governor Gavin Newsom has been ordered to pay $1.35 million in a legal settlement to a Los Angeles-area church after its congregation was barred from worshiping by the state’s Covid restrictions.
Newsom can no longer place lockdown rules on houses of worship as part of the settlement, the local paper Pasadena Now reported.
Mat Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, which represented the Harvest Rock Church called Newsom the “worst governor in America,” for religious freedom, according to the Washington Examiner.
“The church stayed open [during the lockdown], and the pastor and parishioners were threatened with daily criminal charges that were up to a year in prison,” he said.
The settlement amount is to repay the church’s attorney costs and fees in the lawsuit brought against Newsom’s administration last summer, Fox News reported.
“After nearly a yearlong battle defending our religious freedoms, our lawsuit has reached a permanent settlement in our favor,” the Rev. Ché Ahn, founder of the church, said in a statement, according to the Patch. “I am thrilled to see the complete reversal of the last discriminatory restrictions against churches in California.”
The case brought by the church made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in February, according to Pasadena Now. On a 6-3, the Supreme Court cited the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion and ruled that the church could allow up to 200 members, but regulations upheld prohibitions against singing and chanting.
Newsom faces a recall election in the fall amid anger over his lockdown restrictions.
“Gov. Newsom’s COVID restrictions intentionally discriminated against churches while providing preferential treatment to many secular businesses and gatherings,” Staver said, according to the Examiner. “What’s important is this ruling is permanent. He cannot ever do this again.”
The settlement “resolves this case while providing clarity and certainty to the public around the public health standards applicable to places of worship following recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Newsom’s office told Newsweek in a statement.
The settlement comes after a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in April that said California could not limit indoor, at-home religious congregations.
The settlement comes on the heels of a 5-4 Supreme Court decision last month that said California couldn’t limit indoor, at-home religious gatherings.