Chula Vista church wants to take reopening fight to Supreme Court

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CHULA VISTA, Calif — South Bay United Pentecostal Church now is looking for guidance from the highest court in the land with its ambitions set on reopening.

Church leaders say they’ve filed a motion to the U.S. Supreme Court after the place of worship’s emergency motion for injunctive relief appealing the state’s stay-at-home order was rejected Friday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the court’s ruling, a three-judge panel wrote that the church’s First Amendment rights aren’t being violated.

“We’re dealing here with a highly contagious and often fatal disease for which there presently is no known cure,” the judges wrote in a filing. “In the words of Justice Robert Jackson, if a ‘[c]ourt does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.'”

The issue of churches reopening has drawn attention at the state and national level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued guidelines for places of worship, which include promoting healthy hygiene practices, minimizing community sharing of worship materials and planning for if a congregant becomes sick.

This week, the Trump administration deemed churches as “essential” operations with President Trump saying Friday he planned to “override” governors that don’t abide by his request. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he plans to share new guidelines for churches Monday after having conversations with religious institutions.

South Bay United Pentecostal Pastor Bishop Arthur Hodges III said the church plans to move forward with the case, citing constitutional protections for places of worship.

“We are not asking for an exception, but want to be included in the equation,” Hodges said.
“We want this case decided by the Supreme Court once and for all so that we don’t face this again.”

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