CHULA VISTA, Calif. — South Bay Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista has filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing its First Amendment rights are being violated as Gov. Gavin Newsom allows other businesses and organization to move forward with reopening without any limitations.
Bishop Arthur Hodges is just days away from his first in-person church service since the COVID-19 pandemic began. He said they will reopen Sunday, although he’s not exactly sure what it will look like.
“It will be exciting. It will be nice to have an audience. It will be a smaller audience than we are used to having but a larger audience than we’ve had in the last two and a half months,” Hodges said.
Earlier this month, Hodges filed a lawsuit against Newsom for shutting down all places of worship. A federal judge in San Diego denied his request to reopen, which then prompted him to file an appeal in the 9th Circuit, which was also shot down.
“We’re asking for the U.S. Supreme Court once and for all, you are the supreme authority of the land. Make a ruling that’s just not for all sake, but all churches sake, not just for California’s sake, all across America we need a ruling in this matter,” said Hodges.
Despite the fact that Newsom gave the clearance for churches to reopen, Hodges is still moving forward with the lawsuit since they’re limited to 25% of its capacity or 100 people people, whichever is less.
“We still have a problem here because that is a clear discrimination against churches because no other enterprise in California has those restrictions placed on them, only churches. This is a clear violation of our constitutional rights to free exercise in assembly,” Hodges said.
He also says he’s setting a precedent when it comes to taking his case all case all the way to the Supreme Court.
“We need a ruling at that level that will settle this issue once and for all. We don’t want to be going through this three months from now, and that’s a very real possibility,” Hodges said.
Hodges is hoping for a Supreme Court ruling before Sunday, but regardless of the decision, his church will follow CDC guidelines such as taking everyone’s temperature before entering.