South Bay pastor ‘disappointed’ after Supreme Court allows church service restrictions

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – The pastor of a South Bay church says he’s disappointed, but still hopeful after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal in a 5-4 vote challenging the state limits on church services.

The South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista argued the limits placed on church attendance violate the constitution and religious freedoms. Bishop Arthur Hodges, the senior pastor, told FOX 5 Saturday the legal battle is not over yet.

“You cannot unfairly put restrictions on churches that aren’t placed generally across industry all over the state of California,” Hodges said. “That’s what is at issue. We’re just asking for the same rights and privileges every other enterprise has in the state of California.”

Initially the church sued Gov. Gavin Newsom after churches were deemed “nonessential.” Now, new guidelines allow places of worship to hold services at 25% capacity, or no more than 100 people. But Hodges says those limits still prevent churches from fully operating.

He wants to see a legal precedent set to prevent church closures in the future.

“We need a definitive word from the highest legal authority in the land, which is the United States Supreme Court, limiting and restricting governors or any other government powers even during emergencies that they cannot shut down churches,” he said.

Even though Friday’s vote did not go in the church’s favor, Hodges believes the close vote is a sign they will get a favorable outcome in the end. The next step will be to file briefs on June 5th in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the meantime, the church plans to operate in compliance with all guidelines.

“Everyone who comes is going to have their temperature checked, everyone who comes is going to be asked to wear a mask,” he said. “We’re going to go above and beyond what CDC is recommending and what the state is requiring and what the county is looking for.”

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