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Covid-19: California Governor Gavin Newsom sued by pastors over restrictions on gatherings

A group of pastors are suing California Governor Gavin Newsom in federal court over the Coronavirus restrictions on gatherings which stopped people from attending church services.

The Dhillon Law Group, which is led by conservative attorney Harmeet Dhillon, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, on behalf of four plaintiffs, three of whom are pastors.

According to LA Times, the clergymen alleged Governor Gavin's administration is “criminalizing the free exercise of religion” with stay-at-home directives that have prevented people from attending church services.

The other plaintiffs include a San Bernardino County churchgoer, a San Bernardino County pastor and another Riverside County pastor.

The lawsuit argues that Newsom and other state officials “in a gross abuse of their power, have seized the coronavirus pandemic to expand their authority by unprecedented lengths, depriving plaintiffs and all other residents of California of fundamental rights protected by the U.S. and California Constitutions, including freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, and due process and equal protection under the law,” according to the complaint.

“It is this court’s duty to defend these constitutional principles, by safeguarding the many rights and liberties of Californians that defendants so brazenly violate.”

The pastors in the lawsuit also are suing California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and officials for both Riverside and San Bernardino counties, including the county supervisors and sheriffs.

Newsom on March 19 handed down an executive order asking Californians to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak after some churches in the state became hot spots for coronavirus infections, including one in Rancho Cordova where 71 congregants tested positive for the killer disease.

At a press conference last Friday, Newsom said he wasn’t opposed to people worshiping, provided that they did so in a safe, physically distant manner.

“Practice your faith, but do so in a way that allows you to keep yourself healthy,” Newsom said.

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