During an interview with MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle on Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) was asked about a recent letter the Department of Justice sent to him warning the governor to not discriminate against churches and religious institutions.
“These stay at home orders are rooted in safety, yet the Justice Department is now saying your stay-at-home order is discriminating against churches. What’s your response?” asked Ruhle.
“I have deep faith and devotion to our churches. I grew up in the church and went to Jesuit University,” said Newsom, who declined to say whether he’s discriminated against religious institutions.
“I have deep reverence for congregants and parishioners that want to reconnect to their community and to their faith and be able to practice accordingly,” he said. “We’re just a few weeks away from meaningful modifications that will allow just that to happen.”
But now that President Trump has announced the CDC will release guidelines for reopening houses of worship, and that governors should allow them to resume operations by this weekend, Newsom seems to be suggesting that the reopening guidelines are only days away.
“We look forward to churches reopening in a safe and responsible manner. And we have guidelines that we anticipated completing on Monday, and we’re on track to do just that,” said Newsom during a press conference on Friday, reports KCRA-3. “We take the issue very, very seriously, and to heart, and we have been very aggressive in trying to put together guidelines that will do justice to people’s health and their fundamental need and desire to practice their faith.”
As The Daily Wire previously reported, the Department of Justice sent a letter to California earlier this week warning the governor that his executive orders were raising civil rights concerns with respect to religious institutions. Under the governor’s four-stage plan, houses of worship must remain closed until movie theaters and salons are allowed to reopen.
“Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Laws that do not treat religious activities equally with comparable nonreligious activities are subject to heightened scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” said the DOJ letter. “Laws that are not both neutral toward religion and generally applicable are invalid unless the government can prove that they further a compelling interest and are pursued through the least restrictive means possible.”
“Religious communities have rallied to protect their communities from the spread of this disease by making services available online, in parking lots, or outdoors, by indoor services with a majority of pews empty, and in numerous other creative ways that otherwise comply with social distancing and sanitation guidelines. We believe, for the reasons outlined above, that the Constitution calls for California to do more to accommodate religious worship, including in Stage 2 of the Reopening Plan,” said the letter.
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