DOJ warns Calif. Gov. Newsom the state’s reopening plans could violate religious freedoms

FILE – In this April 11, 2020, file photo, a person films pastor Nicolas Sanchez, center left, celebrating Easter Vigil Mass at his church decorated with candles and pictures sent by his parishioners attached to their pews at St. Patrick Church in North Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 9:08 AM PT — Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Justice Department is calling on the governor of California to do more when it comes to accommodating in-person religious gatherings in the state.

In a letter addressed to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) Tuesday, the department raised a series of civil rights concerns and warned the state’s stay-at-home order could be violating religious freedoms.

Specifically, the notice questions why religious gatherings are not considered essential, while other sectors such as the entertainment and eCommerce industries are being allowed to resume operations.

Eric Dreiband, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice said Newsom’s policies effectively act as a sort of differential treatment that are unfairly singling out religious worshipers with restrictions that are not being imposed on other activities.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announces new criteria related to coronavirus hospitalizations and testing that could allow counties to open faster than the state, during a news conference at Mustards Grill in Napa, Calif., Monday May 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool)

Dreiband said while the Department of Justice does not seek to control how California determines what should and should not be able to reopen, the department wants to make sure the state’s restrictions and guidelines uphold the Constitution and federal protections for civil rights.

This comes as religious leaders across the state have heightened calls for the governor to allow them to reopen, while many others have already suggested they would reopen on their own time.

“Governor Newsom open the doors. It’s way past time. We have what is needed in our community with the rise of the new pandemic of emotional, spiritual, the dire needs. We have the answer. So, Governor, open the doors.”

— Rev. Larry Ihrig, founder – Celebration Church

At this time, Newsom’s office has not yet responded to the letter.

RELATED: Oakland church leaders form coalition to reopen amid lockdown

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