Published May 28, 2021
Except in rare cases, California churches are free of restrictions relative to COVID-19 due to a mid-May decision by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Issuing a permanent injunction, the court permanently enjoined California Governor Gavin Newsom from imposing COVID restrictions of any kind on churches unless specific criteria have been met, including:
- Indoor capacity restrictions can only be imposed if new COVID cases involving children ages 1-17 rise by 100% or more statewide, or by 200% or more in any county if there were at least 10 hospitalizations in each of the two prior weeks
- Statewide case rates for COVID-19 exceed 25 per 100,000 AND the expected impact on hospitals will drive Adult ICU bed availability to less than 20% of statewide capacity
According to website statistics from the New York Times, California COVID-19 statewide case rates as of May 24 were at or below 3.20 per 100,000 of population. Case rates have exceeded 25 per 100,000 during just two periods: from July 23-26, 2020, and from November 18, 2020 to February 14, 2021.]
When attempting to impose new restrictions under these criteria, governmental orders must be fully compliant with the U.S. Supreme Court opinions (Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, Tandon v. Newsom, South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, and Harvest Rock Church, Inc. v. Newsom). The general statement of the Supreme Court revealed in these decisions is that churches cannot be restricted to any greater extent than other businesses – if retail stores can have indoor occupancies of certain percentages, so, too, may churches.
California churches are free to gather for worship and fellowship, including singing and chanting; wearing masks is a personal choice, not a mandate. Churches should act responsibly and continue to follow Center for Disease Control recommendations for sanitation.