Three California churches have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom and several state health officials for a ban on singing during church services, arguing that it violates the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit were listed as Calvary Chapel in Ukiah, Calvary Chapel Fort Bragg and the River of Life Church in Oroville.
“Singing in church is a biblical mandate,” Kevin Green, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Bragg, told the Los Angeles Times.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Redding by a team of lawyers from the American Center for Law and Justice, Tyler & Bursch, The National Center for Law and Policy, and Advocates for Faith & Freedom.
“Let me be clear, the State does not have the jurisdiction to ban houses of worship from singing praises to God,” Robert Tyler, partner at Tyler & Bursch, LLP, said in an ACLJ release.
In new guidelines issued on July 1, in the face of rising COVID-19 cases, public health officials in California said singing and chanting in houses of worship must not happen because the activity posed a threat to public health.
“Even with adherence to physical distancing, convening in a congregational setting of multiple different households to practice a personal faith carries a relatively higher risk for widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and may result in increased rates of infection, hospitalization, and death, especially among more vulnerable populations,” health officials said in the new guidelines document.
“In particular, activities such as singing and chanting negate the risk reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing. *Places of worship must therefore discontinue singing and chanting activities and limit indoor attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower,” they advised.