By Associated Press - Tuesday, May 5, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A federal judge says California Gov. Gavin Newsom had the right to ban church assemblies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Judge John Mendez ruled Tuesday that Newsom had the right to temporarily ban church gatherings in the interest of public health.

The Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi and Pastor Jonathan Duncan had alleged Newsom’s stay-at-home order in March violated their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and assembly. The church held services until the church’s landlord, under threat of misdemeanor from county health officials, changed the locks on the church doors, barring the congregation from assembly on Palm Sunday.

A lawyer for the church says the judge’s rejection of a temporary restraining order request will not stop them from pressing on with their case.

Mendez said state and local stay-at-home orders were a valid exercise of emergency police powers and didn’t violate the church’s constitutional rights. Mendez noted that the Supreme Court over 100 years ago upheld the government’s right to exercise police powers to promote public safety during a public health crisis.

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