Officials from Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry said Wednesday they filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting an injunction pending appeal in their federal lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom over COVID-19 restrictions.
The ministries contend Newsom’s “tyrannical” executive orders placing restrictions on places of worship are unconstitutional and discriminate against churches.
Harvest Rock recently sought to block Newsom’s ban on indoor singing and chanting in churches, but was denied in its bid to overturn the order by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A representative for the governor could not immediately be reached for comment.
The church contends that Newsom’s orders violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing that government may not restrict religious practices.
As a result of the dramatic rise in coronavirus cases throughout the state this month, Newsom recently halted reopening plans and put almost all of California back under a strict set of rules that prohibit indoor worship and force most indoor business to close or operate at a fraction of their capacity.
Harvest Rock Church has multiple campuses, including in Pasadena, Los Angeles, Irvine and Corona. Harvest International Ministry has 162 member churches throughout the state.
“After discriminating against churches for eight months, it should be no surprise that Gov. Gavin Newsom has decided to ban worship for much of the state and severely restrict Thanksgiving,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represents the ministry.
Staver alleges that Harvest Rock has received letters from Pasadena’s Code Compliance Division and city prosecutors “threatening daily criminal charges, with each up to a year in prison, and huge fines against the pastors, church, governing board, staff, and parishioners, which includes a threat to close the church.”
Staver said that with “criminal charges looming every day, and in light of Newsom’s new edicts on travel and Thanksgiving, Liberty Counsel filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to stop the tyranny.”