SAN DIEGO (CN) — South Bay United Pentecostal Church failed Monday during its fourth attempt to block California from restricting occupancy rates on in-person worship services more severely than pandemic standards set by the state for retail and grocery stores.
But its attempt to block California’s Covid-19 restrictions on churches and places of worship during the Christian Holy Week may not be in vain.
U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant, a Barack Obama appointee, set an evidentiary hearing in the case, South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, where California must show how it came up with its capacity caps on in-person worship services.
The hearing follows a Supreme Court order last month finding California’s ban on in-person church services was unconstitutional. While the Ninth Circuit found California’s ban during the height of the pandemic was constitutional, it found the state’s capacity restrictions on worship services under relaxed Covid-19 restrictions were not.
A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, California’s restrictions on places of worship are among the most restrictive in the country.
“The Supreme Court has expressed frustration — and I think rightfully so — about the lack of a developed record,” Bashant said, noting South Bay has requested temporary restraining orders against the state just before Christmas and Easter — major Christian holidays.
She added: “What I’m interested in is the occupancy rate. If the state can’t show they’re treating churches the same or better than retail, I’m inclined to issue the preliminary injunction.”
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