California Churches Sue State Over Governor’s Order Banning Singing, Chanting At Services But Not At Protests

( Churches in California believe they are being treated unfairly, and they are taking their case to federal court.

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom recently banned chanting and singing in houses of worship as one way to curb the spread of coronavirus. Newsom said these actions “present an increased likelihood for transmission of COVID-19 through contaminated exhaled droplets.”

The outbreak is raging in California, as it is in other parts of the country.

Three churches in the northern part of the state, though, believe this order is treating them unfairly, while giving preferential treatment to protests about police brutality.

The three churches — Calvary Chapel in Fort Bragg, River of Life Assembly of God Church in Oroville, and Calvary Chapel in Ukiah — filed the suit in the Eastern District of California. They are saying Newsom’s ban violates their constitutional rights of religion and speech.

One of the main arguments is that Newsom didn’t apply the same restrictions on protesters who have gathered in large crowds to protest police brutality. According to the complaint, Newsom “explained ‘we have a Constitution, we have a right to free speech,’ and further stated that ‘we are all dealing with a moment in our nation’s history that is profound and pronounced … Do what you think is best.”

The churches are hoping the courts will issue an injunction against Newsom’s order.

As of yet, the governor’s office has not commented publicly on the matter.

In early July, Newsom issued the temporary ban because state data was showing an uptick in coronavirus cases in community settings. When that happened, the state’s Department of Public Health announced:

“Practices and performances present an increased likelihood for transmission of COVID-19 through contaminated exhaled droplets and should occur through alternative methods like internet streaming.”

The suit pointed to how they were being unfairly treated as the reason why the injunction should be issued. The suit reads:

“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, Newsome has been unwavering in his support of massive protests in California.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that signing at religious services is one way that the coronavirus definitely spreads. The agency cites a case at a Washington choir practice, where one person who had coronavirus ended up spreading it to 87% of the rest of the people at that practice.

In May, the CDC commented on this directly, saying:

“The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization.”

The churches, though, cited Scripture to emphasize the importance of singing during church services. The suit reads:

“The book of Ephesians in the Bible commands that Plaintiffs ‘be imitators of God’ and ‘speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.'”

This case is just another that is pitting religious institutions against local governments who are putting restrictions on them by not mass gatherings at police brutality protests.