Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry filed an en banc petition to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requesting that the entire panel of judges review the case regarding Governor Gavin Newsom’s unconstitutional orders. Harvest Rock Church has multiple campuses in California, including in Pasadena, Los Angeles, Irvine and Corona. Harvest International Ministries has 162 member churches throughout the state.
Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision did not grant an injunction pending appeal. However, the Court of Appeals will hear the merits of the request for an injunction in a future hearing to be set in the new year. Due to the importance of the issues, and the fact that now the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued two separate 2-1 decisions (in the South Bay and Harvest cases), Liberty Counsel is requesting a rehearing before all the Ninth Circuit judges.
The discrimination has become more obvious and severe in Gov. Newsom’s new “Blueprint” issued on August 28, 2020, which established a system of four Tiers. The “Blueprint” discriminates against religious meetings in churches and places of worship in every Tier. The chart attached to the petition for rehearing en banc makes this discrimination very clear.
Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry have churches in Tier 1, where the governor’s orders prohibit ALL indoor worship services, including home Bible studies with anyone who does not live in the home. From the first stay-at-home order in March to the present, Governor Newsom has allowed feeding, sheltering, and nonreligious counseling with an unlimited number of people in the same church building, but religious gatherings are either banned or severely restricted. In Tiers 2 and 3, churches can have no more than 100 and 200 people respectively no matter the size of the building, but gyms, fitness centers, museums, family entertainment centers, retail, shopping malls, big box centers, warehouses, destination centers, swap meets, and more have no numerical maximum cap on the number of people that can congregate in the building.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Due to the importance of this case and the split among the Ninth Circuit judges, we have requested that the entire panel of judges review the obvious discrimination against churches and places of worship. The recent ‘Blueprint’ issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom reveals a clear discrimination against religious gatherings. California cannot give preferential treatment to nonreligious meetings over religious meetings. The virus does not discriminate between nonreligious and religious meetings, but Gov. Newsom does. This discrimination violates the First Amendment.”