California · COVID-19

Stripped of church service ban by Supreme Court, Newsom tinkers with coronavirus rules

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office on Saturday issued new guidelines for indoor church services after the Supreme Court lifted the state’s ban on indoor worship during the coronavirus pandemic, but left in place restrictions on singing and chanting.

In the most significant legal victory against California’s COVID-19 health orders, the high court issued rulings late Friday in two cases where churches argued the restrictions violated their religious liberty.

The justices said for now California can’t continue with a ban on indoor church services, but it can limit attendance to 25 percent of a building’s capacity and restrict singing and chanting inside.

The new state guidelines limit attendance at indoor services in areas with widespread or substantial virus spread to 25 percent of a building’s capacity. Indoor services in areas with moderate to minimum spread are limited to 50 percent capacity.

California had put the ban in place because the virus is more easily transmitted indoors and singing releases tiny droplets that can carry the disease.

Newsom’s office said those measures were imposed to protect worshippers from getting infected.

“We will continue to enforce the restrictions the Supreme Court left in place and, after reviewing the decision, we will issue revised guidelines for worship services to continue to protect the lives of Californians,” the governor’s press secretary, Daniel Lopez, said in a statement.

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The San Joaquin Valley Sun
Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.