This morning, South Bay Pentecostal Church and its pastor, Bishop Arthur Hodges III, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court their reply brief to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s defense of his COVID-19 restrictions on religious services. Last week, South Bay Church and Bishop Hodges filed an emergency appeal to Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan to block the church ban after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the order.
In his opposition, Governor Newsom claims that South Bay Church’s lawsuit is moot because of the guidelines he released on Monday that allowed churches to reopen, subject to severe regulation.
In response, South Bay Church argues that the case still raises significant First Amendment issues, which Governor Newsom has failed to address in his legal briefs. As South Bay Church and Bishop Hodges note in their reply brief, “California is still violating Plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights, and millions of Americans across [San Diego County] are still having their constitutional rights trampled upon.”
Now that the parties have completed briefing, Justice Kagan will decide whether to grant South Bay’s emergency application for a writ of injunction, which is a special order compelling Governor Newsom not to enforce his restrictions on the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
The case is titled South Bay United Pentecostal Church, et al. v. Gavin Newsom, et al. Defendants also include San Diego County officials responsible for enforcing the order. In addition to the Defense Fund’s support, the plaintiffs are represented by the Law Offices of LiMandri & Jonna, Thomas More Society, and the Dhillon Law Group.