Drive-in church services can begin in Fresno and throughout California following a legal victory by the California and Virginia-based Center for American Liberty.
The nonprofit announced Saturday that Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in court documents that because vehicles are “technology,” drive-in church services are permitted under the state’s shelter-in-place rule.
The Center for American Liberty had sought a temporary restraining order against the state’s opposition to drive-in church services. Newsom and Becerra backed off banning the services in their response to the court.
Center Continues Fight for Open Churches
“This is heartening progress for our clients, and all Californians,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, CEO of the Center for American Liberty. “But while this is a step in the right direction, it is still not enough.
“Even after these policy changes, houses of worship are still very limited in their permissible activities. Many of these activities provide immeasurable societal good, be it delivering food to the elderly, hosting addiction support groups, providing spiritual comfort and counseling for Californians in crisis, and so many other essential services.”
Riverside and San Bernardino counties amended their shelter-in-place orders after the Center for American Liberty announced its legal victory Saturday.
Bredefeld Applauds Decision but Also Wants Open Churches
Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld issued a statement Monday afternoon pointing out the organization’s successful fight to permit drive-in church services during the coronavirus lockdown.
Bredefeld also called on the governor to open church doors to regular services.
“We still need to remove the restrictions on churches to allow people to attend services both inside and outside the church implementing CDC guidelines and social distancing as is being applied currently to essential businesses,” Bredefeld said.
“Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order that bans people from attending church is also unconstitutional and must be amended to allow our citizens their Constitutional freedom to worship and attend their church, synagogue, or any other house of worship.”
US Attorney General Barr Sides With Religious Freedom
Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General William Barr entered the debate by supporting a Mississippi church’s decision to hold services in defiance of shelter-in-place orders there.
“Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” Barr said.