The City of Pasadena’s Chief Assistant City Prosecutor has now threatened daily criminal charges against Harvest Rock Church if it continues to hold in-person worship services.
The church and its international ministry sued California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials for violating the state constitution by prohibiting in-person worship and imposing other restrictions. The pastor, church and ministry, are represented by Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit religious liberty organization, which most recently appeared in federal district court on August 12 to request a preliminary injunction.
The ministry includes 162 churches in California and 65,000 affiliate churches and ministries worldwide.
Judge Jesus G. Bernal denied the request. Liberty Counsel immediately filed an appeal. Liberty Counsel will also file with the same judge a request for an injunction pending appeal, which the court will also deny, the counsel said in a statement. Doing so is part of the process in order to later make a similar request before the Court of Appeals.
In a letter it sent to the church’s Pastor Che’ Ahn, the city prosecutor states that the church holding in-person services with more than 50-100 people attending who are also not all wearing face masks, are violating state and city ordinances.
“Violations of these orders are criminal in nature,” the letter states. “Each day in violation is a separate violation and carries with it punishment up to one year in jail and a fine for each violation. More importantly, these violations subject your parishioners, staff and the public-at-large to potential exposure to [contracting the coronavirus].
“Your compliance with these orders is not discretionary, it is mandatory. Any violations in the future will subject your church, owners, administrators, operators, staff and parishioners to the above-mentioned criminal penalties as well as the potential closures of your church ”
The State of California has come under fire for its lack of transparency, inaccuracy of reporting coronavirus-related data, misrepresenting data, and the sudden departure of its state health department director responsible for managing the data. The state’s database provides no recovery data, no negative test results and no data concerning positive cases connected to preexisting conditions.
Coronavirus-related hospital admission numbers remain flat, and recoveries far outweigh deaths and hospitalizations. Doctors who have been speaking out against the state’s mishandling of the situation continue to be silenced.
When asked to produce the missing data, the health department has consistently provided no response. The state maintains it is facing an unprecedented health crisis, but in reality, the data it is reporting doesn’t support this argument. Nor does the data justify any form of a continued shutdown.
The number of positive coronavirus cases, which are highly questionable at this point, represent 1.9 percent of California’s 40 million people. The number of deaths, as a percentage of the population, is .02 percent.
These numbers fall short of the basic scientific measures the Centers for Disease Control and other medical entities worldwide use to define health “epidemics” and “pandemics.” As Just the News reports,
“The CDC qualifies a disease outbreak as an ‘epidemic’ if the number of deaths attributable to the disease exceeds a certain percentage of total deaths per week. That threshold for pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19 fluctuates slightly depending on the time of year, ranging from around 7 percent at the height of flu season to around 5 percent during less virulent months.”
California’s number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 falls far below these percentages.
Instead, the numbers highlight a massive failure on the government’s ability to accurately assess what a health crisis actually is or how to manage it.
The Newsom administration has consistently imposed restrictions on churches that are not imposed on protestors. It has allowed some businesses to open but not others. It has restricted and quarantined healthy residents who are not sick and prohibited them from earning a living. The Newsom administration, several city and county officials and local health officials have been sued over orders and ordinances that violate several provisions of the state constitution. More lawsuits are expected.
Gov. Newsom has gone on the record to encourage tens of thousands of protestors to gather without enforcing any coronavirus restrictions, as recorded by numerous news outlets.
In the case of Harvest Church, referring to Newsom, Liberty Counsel argues,
“His response filed in court admits he did not attempt to stop the protestors, but says the reason is there were too many of them. If that is the case, perhaps if there are large groups of people who gather for worship, would he not enforce his orders? Yet, he has always encouraged the protestors to ‘Keep doing it.’”
A government entity targeting a church and its parishioners and not targeting another group of people is an example of selective prosecution, which is discriminatory and illegal, Liberty Counsel maintains.
“The City of Pasadena, like Gov. Gavin Newsom, encourages thousands of people to gather for mass protests, but now consider in-person worship to be a criminal offense,” Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said. “These actions of the City of Pasadena and Gov. Gavin Newsom are akin to repressive foreign regimes, not America where the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. The First Amendment erects a wall which the state may not breech to close churches and incarcerate pastors and parishioners.”
Harvest Church, among many others, has a long history of providing much-needed social services to the community. It is not participating in the destruction of property or looting, which many “protestors” are. The church provides encouragement and support to those struggling with record high unemployment, social isolation, and a record number of suicides being committed by family members and friends in the communities it serves.
The Newsom administration and local governments are actively pursuing churches while at the same time, by the end of August, the state will have released 18,000 criminals from state prison.
If churches like Harvest continue to hold in-person services, government officials are pursuing them and others, will actually put Christians in jail for worshipping– when criminals are being released from state prison.