May 05, 2020

Americans United for Separation of Church and State hailed a federal court decision today to uphold California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s public health order that includes both religious and secular gatherings in the temporary ban on large groups.

In his order denying a request for a temporary restraining order in Cross Culture Christian Center v. Newsom, U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez cited Americans United’s amicus brief that explained it is permissible for officials to protect public health by including houses of worship and religious services in temporary bans of in-person gatherings. The brief also argued that it would be unconstitutional to exempt religious gatherings from these orders.

“Especially during hard times, we must hold fast to our constitutional principles, including the separation of religion and government,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “Gov. Newsom’s public health order does not violate religious freedom; it ensures that the government is not favoring some people’s religious practices in a way that endangers other people’s lives. As we’ve already seen in California and across the country, COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate between religious and secular gatherings – it spreads easily at both, putting the health of entire communities at risk.

“We sympathize with Californians who find solace in communal religious services and applaud the faith communities who are finding creative new ways to worship together remotely. We will get through this crisis together, even if not in person.”

 AU’s Amicus Brief.

Judge Mendez’s May 5 Order.

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.