A California church has appealed its case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concerning Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on all indoor worship services, including Bible studies, and singing.
The religious rights law group Liberty Counsel is representing the Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry. Attorneys argue that the governor’s actions are contradictory, as he continues to encourage thousands of people to gather for protests against social injustice.
“His response filed in court admits he did not attempt to stop the protesters but says the reason is there were too many of them,” Liberty Counsel stated. “If that is the case, perhaps if there are large groups of people who gather for worship, would he not enforce his orders? Yet, he has always encouraged the protestors to ‘Keep doing it.'”
The church filed for a preliminary injunction against Newsom on August 12, but Judge Jesus G. Bernal denied the request and released the written order on Wednesday.
On August 13, Harvest Rock Church and its Pastor Che’ Ahn, received a letter from the Pasadena Assistant Prosecutor in the Criminal Division demanding that all in-person worship services stop.
The letter threatened fines and criminal charges against Pastor Ahn, the church, and staff of up to one year in prison for noncompliance.
In a video posted on Instagram, Pastor Ahn said the church will pay the fine if a churchgoer receives a ticket for attending worship services.
“If you do show up and get a ticket, Harvest Rock Church is going to underwrite that ticket – we’ll pay for your citation,” Ahn said in the video, explaining that what they are doing is “in obedience to what we believe the Holy Spirit is directing us.”
“I’ve said this a number of times I’m willing to go to jail for what I believe is my constitutional right and what I believe the Holy Spirit is asking me to do as your pastor,” the pastor concluded.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Now that we have the written order from the court, we can finally move forward with the appeal. The Supreme Court has clearly stated that under the First Amendment, the state cannot prohibit people from attending church against their will. Yet, that is what Gov. Newsom has done.”
“The church has been essential for 2,000 years, and the First Amendment recognizes that the free exercise of religion is essential,” Staver added. “The church is now more essential than ever because there are so many hurting people, especially in California, where the governor has decimated the economy and hurt many people by his draconian restrictions.”