DOJ Issues Discrimination Warning

DOJ Issues Discrimination Warning

( – For the third time since Easter, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is getting involved in a religious standoff during COVID-19. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has forced churches to help prevent the transmission of the virus. California currently allows manufacturing, entertainment studios, and other non-essential businesses to be open, but not churches. The DOJ is arguing those business enterprises don’t have an exception to the US Constitution, but a church does.

This week, a letter was sent from US Attorney Eric Dreiband in the Civil Rights Division.

The letter says Newsom’s order amounted to “unequal treatment of faith communities,” and that it placed an “unfair burden” on places of worship. California is currently in a phase-two opening. However, Dreiband is urging Newsom to put houses of worship in stage three of his stage-five plan to allow them to open immediately.

The Constitution Overrides Governor’s Orders

Dreiband wrote, “Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the US Constitution and its Bill of Rights.” He argued that due to the Bill of Rights, a church is an “essential” business and that it was unfair to ban church services while other “essential” businesses are open. Dreiband further said California is discriminating against people of faith and churches.

In April, US Attorney General William Barr said that the government couldn’t apply “special restrictions” on religious organizations and not on secular activity.

Religious Leaders Protesting

Church leaders say it’s time to open the doors and in the face of emotional, spiritual, and dire needs, their communities need them more than ever. Religious leaders across California are becoming more vocal as they heighten calls for the governor to allow places of worship to reopen. Some are saying they defy Newsom’s ban and will open on May 31 regardless of what the governor does.

On Monday, Newsom said some church restrictions were being lifted to provide counseling services and other activities. However, he said in-person church services are a few weeks away. “Not months. Weeks, if everything holds up,” Newsom said. The governor further said he deeply admired the faith community, but the virus would determine when churches can hold services. He wants to see a negative turn in the infection rate and hospitalizations first.

Newsom’s office acknowledged the letter from the DOJ was received. As for enforcement, the DOJ is sending out the warning, and it’s unknown what further action, if any, it will take.

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