Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been ordered to pay $1.35 million in legal fees as part of a settlement reached with Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church over COVID-19 lockdown orders he issued last year.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement filed earlier this month, California is barred from enforcing any regulations in connection with COVID-19 that place any restrictions on religious worship services that are not identical to the least restrictive ones imposed on other gatherings.
The order “does not prohibit the State from issuing recommendations, best practices, precautions, or other measures, as long as such promulgations make clear to the public that they are voluntary and not enforceable.”
“The settlement references several Supreme Court opinions, including Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom, that cite a long list of similar nonreligious activities the High Court set forth as comparable gatherings. While the state allowed activity at grocery stores, warehouses, big box stores, transportation, and more, Newsom had unconstitutionally shut down religious activities like church gatherings,” CBN News reported.
“According to the permanent injunction, churches and places of worship may never again have discriminatory restrictions placed on them that are not equally applied to a long list of ‘critical infrastructure’ or ‘essential services’ as outlined in several Supreme Court precedents cited in the settlement,” the outlet added.
— Liberty Counsel (@libertycounsel) May 22, 2021
Last July, Harvest Rock’s senior pastor Ché Ahn chose to disregard a Newsom order which shut down over 90 percent of indoor church services in California.
Ahn sued the governor and the state, arguing the church’s First Amendment rights were being violated.
In August, a Pasadena prosecutor threatened Harvest Rock’s leadership and members with fines and up to a year of jail time.
Ahn’s case eventually made its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 6-3 in Harvest Rock’s favor in Febuary, saying the church and others had the right to be open to up to 200 members, but regulations regarding singing and chanting would stay in place, Pasadena Now reported.
However, in April, Newsom lifted mandatory attendance limits and the statewide ban on singing, following another Supreme Court decision to grant a relief petition requested by another church that sued the California governor.
— LifeNews.com (@LifeNewsHQ) April 28, 2021
Ahn celebrated the May 14 settlement agreement.
“This is a momentous day for churches in America! After nearly a yearlong battle defending our religious freedoms, our lawsuit has reached a permanent settlement in our favor,” Ahn told CBN News.
“I am thrilled to see the complete reversal of the last discriminatory restrictions against churches in California, knowing this case will act as a precedent, not only in our state but also in our nation,” he added.
“We are incredibly grateful to our attorney Mat Staver and to Liberty Counsel for their relentless support and fierce determination. Most of all, we give all the glory to God for moving mightily in this historic season!”
Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver also rejoiced at the news.
“Gov. Gavin Newsom has now been permanently quarantined and may not violate the First Amendment rights of churches and places of worship again,” Staver said. “We are grateful for Pastor Ché Ahn, Harvest Rock Church, and Harvest International Ministry. Pastor Ahn’s leadership and courage has toppled the tyranny and freed every pastor and church in California.”