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Churches Sue California And Local Counties Over Social Distancing Orders

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Three Southern California churches that want to keep holding in-person services during the coronavirus outbreak sued Governor Gavin Newsom and other officials on Monday.

The suit, filed in the federal court for the Central District of California, also names state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and officials in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. It challenges stay-at-home orders issued in all three jurisdictions. None of those orders list houses of worship as critical infrastructure, where people are allowed to meet face to face.

“This isn’t about Easter egg hunts or entertaining children,” Harmeet Dhillon, the attorney representing the churches, told LAist last week, when she was threatening legal action. “This is about a core exercise of faith by people. I’m not a Christian, but this is the most important day for Christians around the world. To treat religion differently than a visit to Wal-Mart or a visit to the coffee shop, is impermissible constitutionally."

The suit names three churches: Church Unlimited in Indio, Shield of Faith Family Church in Fontana and Word of Life Ministries International in Riverside.

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Few churches in California have refused to stop holding in-person services. On Easter Sunday, several churches held drive-in services.

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