For the past year, the ACLJ has represented three churches in a lawsuit challenging California’s ban on singing and chanting at indoor worship services throughout the state. After a series of positive developments, including the worship ban being repealed, the lawsuit was recently favorably resolved through a settlement.
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, California imposed a series of burdensome measures upon churches while showing preferential treatment toward favored political protests, abortion providers, and Hollywood. For instance, while California argued in one case that courts should carefully scrutinize abortion restrictions during the pandemic, California argued in our case that courts should not carefully review restrictions imposed upon houses of worship.
Our lawsuit focused on California’s indoor worship ban, which was so extreme that no other state in the country imposed such a ban. As we explained in court filings, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and numerous scientific studies confirmed that, by implementing commonsense safety protocols, churches can safely hold indoor services that include singing and chanting. We provided the court with a detailed summary of 77 scientific studies, articles, and relevant government policies.
Additionally, we explained that, although various other restrictions that California imposed were temporary, regional, and conditional in nature, “the worship ban is statewide and unconditional; it applies everywhere across the state, at all times, regardless of what local conditions look like, what safety protocols are being utilized, how large the building is, how few people are singing or chanting, and how brief any singing or chanting may be.”
As our lawsuit moved forward, California conceded, revising, and eventually eliminating, the worship ban and other discriminatory restrictions in light of several Supreme Court decisions that upheld the rights of churches in California and New York. California entered into settlement agreements in numerous cases, including ours, that prohibit the state from imposing discriminatory or unconstitutional restrictions upon churches in the future.
We are grateful that this case was resolved favorably.
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