Ninth Circuit rejects California church’s appeal of Christmas shutdown

A California church has lost again in court in its bid to legally welcome congregants for services despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shutdown orders because of spiking coronavirus infections.

In a decision Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena’s request for a temporary restraining order against the state’s worship-related restrictions so that it could hold Christmas services.

The decision was 2-1 in favor of upholding the state’s restrictions. Ruling in favor of the state were judges Johnnie B. Rawlinson (appointed by former President Bill Clinton) and Morgan Cristen (appointed by former President Barack Obama).

Issuing the dissenting decision was Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain (appointed by former President Ronald Reagan).


“I strongly object to our failure to accommodate, even in a temporary fashion, Harvest Rock Church’s request for relief from California’s severe restrictions on indoor worship services by December 24,” O’Scannlain wrote, according to a court document posted online by Politico’s Josh Gerstein.

“The requested deadline is hardly arbitrary: The church seeks immediate action from our court so that its members can worship on Christmas Day, one of the most sacred holy days in the Christian calendar,” the judge wrote.

O’Scannlain notes that the church had to seek the emergency order because a district court took more than two weeks to make a decision on a previous court filing.

“Even if we need more time to consider the pending motion in full,” O’Scannlain wrote, “we should have granted the church at least the temporary relief it needs to ensure thatits members can exercise freely the fundamental right to practice their Christian religion on one of the most sacred Christian days of the year.”


In the district court’s ruling, handed down Monday, Judge Jesus Bernal denied the church’s bid for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Newsom’s coronavirus restrictions.

Bernal ruled that the church’s attorneys had failed to adequately prove that Newsom’s orders were infringing on workshipers’ First Amendment rights, Pasadena Now reported.

The Pasadena church has held some gatherings illegally since Newsom’s orders were enacted, the news site reported.

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