Three churches are coming together in a lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom and other state officials. The suit argues that physical distancing orders violate first amendment rights. one of the churches involved in the lawsuit is located in Indio.
NBC Palm Springs spoke to Pastor James Moffatt at Church Unlimited, but he did not want to go on camera for safety reasons saying he and his family have been received threats and he is also waiting on approval from his attorneys.
Church Unlimited in Indio was fined $1000 for violating the Riverside order and holding services on Palm Sunday. County rules were later amended to allow drive-up services for Easter Sunday. The lawsuit that came down Monday seeking to block Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order along with two-county orders aiming to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Pastor Patrick scales with Shield of Faith Family Church in Fontana who is involved in the suit says he is standing up for his faith and civil liberties, calling this situation a double-standard.
“It is a double standard and that’s my take on it, and that’s why we went forth with this lawsuit,” said Scales.
Scales explained that churches were left out when it came to deeming what is essential like big chain stores Wal-mart and Costco.
“All of us know when we go to these stores their shelves are completely empty, so how can you say you’re essential when you have no essential products, but why is the church singled out,” added Scales.
Local litigation attorney Karen Sloat says before the government can order the elimination of a free exercise, officials must first determine a compelling state interest that outweighs the first amendment rights.
“In this particular instance, churches, synagogues, and other places of worship are being singled out as places where people cannot gather. when in fact grocery stores, liquor stores, cannabis stores are allowed to be open,” said Karen Sloat, Attorney & Counselor
“We are not here to defy the law or to disagree with any, you know social distancing orders, we do practice that. we believe that we have the right to assemble as long as we do it in a responsible manner,” explained Scales.
Governor Gavin Newsom and local officials have yet to comment on this issue and a hearing date on the lawsuit has not been set.