California Gov. Gavin Newsom was ordered to pay a $1.35 million settlement this week over his persistent lockdowns of the state’s churches during the coronavirus pandemic.
A federal judge ruled that Newsom, in his capacity as governor, must pay the costs and attorney fees for a lawsuit brought by a Pasadena church that made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
The high court ruled in February that Newsom’s restrictions on indoor church services were discriminatory, since other indoor venues were allowed to open up while churches were ordered to stay locked down.
“After nearly a yearlong battle defending our religious freedoms, our lawsuit has reached a permanent settlement in our favor,” Rev. Che Ahn, founder of the Harvest Rock Church, said in a statement. “I am thrilled to see the complete reversal of the last discriminatory restrictions against churches in California.”
Mat Staver, founder of the conservative legal nonprofit Liberty Counsel, which represented Harvest Rock, slammed Newsom as the “worst governor in America” when it comes to religious freedom.
“The church stayed open [during the lockdown], and the pastor and parishioners were threatened with daily criminal charges that were up to a year in prison,” Staver recalled. “Gov. Newsom’s COVID restrictions intentionally discriminated against churches while providing preferential treatment to many secular businesses and gatherings. What’s important is this ruling is permanent. He cannot ever do this again.”
Newsom will face a recall election this fall, primarily because of his handling of the pandemic.
However, conservatives fear the backlash against Newsom won’t be as strong as it was a few months ago because of rising COVID “optimism.”
One poll found that just 40% of Californians say they want to remove Newsom, according to Politico.