The U.S. Department of Justice told California’s governor that if there is coronavirus pandemic: religious freedom still prevails under the United States Constitution, said a Reuters report.
In a three-page letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, the DOJ said the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution required churches and other houses of worship to be given equal treatment under the law.
This is even as there is an existing health emergency, due to the coronavirus.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband wrote in the letter, “Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.”
California has one of the strictest stay-at-home orders still in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic, said the report.
The DOJ said the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions discriminated against places of worship by preventing them from meeting while businesses and film studios are allowed to carry on working.
“California has not shown why interactions in offices and studios of the entertainment industry, and in-person operations to facilitate nonessential e-commerce, 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,” the DOJ said in its letter to Newsom.
A spokesman for Newsom, asked for comment, said only that the governor’s office had received the DOJ letter, said Reuters.
The governor’s four-stage plan allows each of California’s 58 counties to gradually open based on the number of tests, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, among other factors.
Newsom this week eased restrictions for some counties, making it easier for them to move toward reopening retail stores and restaurants for sit-down dining.