Drive-up religious services will be allowed this weekend in Riverside County, but will be barred again after Easter Sunday to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The decision was a temporary reversal of an order that went into effect last weekend by Riverside County's public health officer that sought to put a stop to all houses of worship from meeting in person, including drive-in religious services, in an attempt to curb the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
"Drive-up service means residents do not get out of their cars, do not roll down their windows, and do not pass things between cars, such as texts, communion or collection baskets," Brooke Federico, Riverside County's public information officer, told City News Service.
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The San Francisco-based Dhillon Law Group sent letters to Riverside and San Bernardino county officials this week on behalf of the Center for American Liberty threatening legal action if the counties did not reverse their bans on in-person religious services.
"This is picking on religion," attorney Harmeet Dhillon told City News Service. "It is unconstitutional to do that."
Federico acknowledged the county received the demand letter, but did not say whether its decision to allow Easter weekend to be temporarily exempted from the original order was due to the threat of legal action.
"The move is a result of community feedback," Federico said.
San Bernardino County officials made a similar decision Friday, also reversing their temporary ban on in-person religious services for this weekend only.
Dhillon said potential lawsuits remain a possibility while applauding each county's decision to allow Christians to celebrate Easter Sunday during drive-up services. Still, she said, other religious groups can benefit from an exemption, not just Christians.
"I don't want to rain on their parade,'' Dhillon said. "I think its important that Christians be able to celebrate Easter, but there are other people of faith in California, too. We don't just have special rules for Christians."
Other directives announced last weekend remain in effect, including the barring of all outside gatherings except for those between family members residing in the same home, and a requirement that anyone who leaves their home must wear a face covering.