California Counties Continue To Settle With Churches, Paying Additional $ 1.3 Million | California


(The Center Square) – The state of California continues to work out with churches the restrictions it imposed on places of worship during the year-long shutdown ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom. In the latest round of settlements with three churches, the state and two counties pay a total of $ 1.3 million in attorney fees.

The state and county of Los Angeles have reached an agreement with Los Angeles-based Grace Community Church and its pastor, John MacArthur, agreeing to pay his Thomas More Society attorneys $ 800,000 in fees and expenses. .

The state and county of San Joaquin settled with the Cross Culture Christian Center (CCCC) of Lodi and its pastor, Jon Duncan, and Cornerstone Church of Fresno, and its pastor, Jim Franklin, agreeing to pay $ 500,000 to his lawyers at Advocates for Faith & Freedom.

The settlements came months after state and federal courts in California issued permanent injunctions against the state, prohibiting it and any state or local agencies from imposing restrictions on places of worship that don’t. were not applied to secular entities.

In the case of Grace Community, the State and County of Los Angeles each donate $ 400,000 to the Thomas More Society, for a total of $ 800,000.

In the cases of CCCC and Cornerstone, the state pays $ 400,000 and San Joaquin County pays Advocates for Faith & Freedom $ 100,000.

The county had targeted CCCC, and its owner, Bethel Open Bible Church’s (BOBC), Advocates for Faith & Freedom, said, “with a shockingly oppressive order to shut down all church property. BOBC used the San Joaquin County illegal order as an excuse to illegally cancel the CCCC lease and lock the church out of the building.

“After a fierce 16-month long legal battle, the state and county of San Joaquin have finally been held responsible for abusing their authority under the guise of public health,” Advocates’ lawyer said , Nada Higuera, in a statement. “It is a monumental victory not only for the churches in this case, but for all places of worship across California.”

The settlement was reached during the appeal of the Ninth Circuit of Churches.

The state of California, the County of Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles “have unconstitutionally used COVID-19 as a pretext to try to force churches to close indefinitely,” the Thomas More Society said. The city had issued a cease and desist order, threatening Grace Community and MacArthur with daily fines of $ 1,000 or arrest after choosing not to close their doors in response to Newsom’s order issued in March. In August 2020, Grace sued the state and county.

The county also sought to have MacArthur convicted of contempt of court and withdrew the church’s 45-year parking lease. The cancellation of the lease was terminated as part of the settlement.

Thomas More Society lawyer Jenna Ellis said of the Grace Community policy: “The church is essential. Religious freedom and the Constitution won today against the overly broad, arbitrary, indeterminate and clearly unconstitutional mandates of Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles County.

The settlements follow on from three previous settlements California accepted earlier this year along with three other Christian ministries.

In May, the state agreed to pay $ 1.35 million in attorney fees and costs in a settlement with Harvest Rock Church, represented by Liberty Counsel. In June, the state agreed to pay $ 2.15 million in legal fees and costs to the Thomas More Society, which sued on behalf of South Bay United Pentecostal Church and Father Trevor Burfitt and his ministries in two separate cases.

Although the United States Supreme Court and California Superior Court had ruled against Newsom months earlier, places of worship were still battling the restrictions in court.

In April 2021, the United States Supreme Court noted that its ruling was “the fifth time the court has summarily dismissed the Ninth Circuit analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise,” because neither the Ninth Circuit nor Newsom had complied with his orders.

Several Calvary Chapel cases are still pending in various counties in northern and southern California.

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