Three churches in northern California are suing Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state health officials over a singing ban imposed on houses of worship during the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal suit — filed on behalf of Calvary Chapel of Ukiah, Calvary Chapel of Fort Bragg and River of Life Church in Oroville — seeks to block the governor's July 1 order that says, "Places of worship must therefore discontinue singing and chanting activities."
The churches claim the mandate violates their constitutional rights and unfairly targets places of worship, while allowing protesters to convene and chant during the pandemic.
"Despite the ongoing and even increasing restrictions on the protected First Amendment rights to freely assemble and engage in religious exercise as it relates to places of worship, Newsom has been unwavering in his support of massive protests in California," the lawsuit reads.
American Center for Law & Justice Executive Director Jordan Sekulow called Newsom's measure an "unconstitutional abuse of power."
"And to do it in the name of a pandemic is despicable," he said in a statement. "This ban is clearly targeted at religion. It is clearly a violation of the First Amendment and a direct violation of religious liberty."
Robert Tyler, one of the other lawyers filing the suit, said the "state does not have the jurisdiction to ban houses of worship from singing praises to God."