Local religious leaders rally against state health orders

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SAN DIEGO — Dozens gathered downtown on Sunday to protest California’s restrictions on places of worship and their ability to hold indoor services during the coronavirus pandemic.

The protest, held in the form of a church service, happened outside of the San Diego County Administration Building. Religious leaders spoke out against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision made in mid-July to restrict churches from holding indoor service, a move which also impacted gyms, malls, offices for non-essential businesses and personal care services such as salons and barbershops.

South Bay Pentecostal Church Pastor Arthur Hodges, one of several state religious leaders suing Newsom over the shutdown, said he believes restrictions on churches infringe upon their constitutional rights.

“We’re not receiving equal rights because other enterprises are allowed to open an operate if they follow protocols,” Hodges said.

He added, “You can’t say people are safe when they go work and follow the rules and the same people are not safe to go to church.”

Hodges and South Bay Pentecostal took their fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in May, which, in a 5-4 decision, rejected the church’s emergency appeal challenging state-imposed limits on attendance at worship services. The church filed a new complaint in July, arguing that the state’s shutdown orders are too restrictive for a “generally non-lethal disease” and that outdoor and online services are “inadequate substitutes” to holding regular services.

Newsom reinstated COVID-19 restrictions amid a rise in cases and hospitalizations across the state.

In mid-July, the state was reporting an increase in hospitalizations of 28% in the two previous weeks before the decision as well as an increase in intensive care unit patients by 20%.

As of Sunday, the state had reported 554,160 cases of COVID-19 and 10,293 deaths.

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