A Sun Valley church announced Thursday it is suing Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Mayor Eric Garcetti, alleging they have shown an unconstitutional favoritism in the enforcement of coronavirus regulations to the detriment of houses of worship.
The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint brought by Grace Community Church and Pastor John MacArthur states that the American people have begun to see the allegedly unequal way in which the pandemic regulations are being applied by public officials.
"They have witnessed how the onerous restrictions imposed on them by public officials to allegedly fight the COVID-19 pandemic simply do not apply to certain, favored groups," the suit states. "When many went to the streets to engage in political protests against racism and police brutality, these protesters refused to comply with the pandemic restrictions."
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Plaintiffs' attorney Charles LiMandri said it is unconstitutional for Newsom and the state to discriminate against churches by treating them less favorably than other organizations and activities that are not protected by the First Amendment. He said this is especially so when the government "has given free rein to protesters and is not similarly restricting marijuana dispensaries, large retail outlets and factories and abortion providers."
Representatives for Newsom and Garcetti did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
According to the suit, instead of enforcing the public health orders, public officials were "all too eager" to grant a de facto exception for the "favored protesters."
Having "irreparably damaged the confidence of Americans -- and Californians especially -- who now realize that the pandemic restrictions are neither necessary nor good," Grace Community Church on July 26 decided to resume worship services joining millions of Americans in deciding that "enough is enough," the suit states.
Grace Community Church decided that it would no longer sit by and watch its congregants and their children suffer from an absence of religious worship and instruction, the suit states.
Los Angeles sent a letter to Grace Community Church ordering it to obey the restrictions, but the church will not comply, the suit states.
According to attorneys for the church, Californians should now realize that Christians "are not second-class citizens and the court must step in to do its job applying the protections the U.S. and California State Constitutions provide to every individual equally and to churches in particular."
The hospitals are not overwhelmed and the death rate from COVID-19 is now extremely small, according to the church's attorneys.