Victory for California Catholic priest; judge prohibits COVID-19 restriction enforcement

Thomas More Society applauds Superior Court order against Governor Gavin Newsom  

BAKERSFIELD—A California Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction Thursday protecting Father Trevor Burfitt and his Catholic parishes from the discrimination being heaped on them by Governor Gavin Newsom and those under his authority in the name of COVID-19 prevention.

Thomas More Society attorneys are representing Rev. Burfitt in his suit against Newsom and other state, county and municipal officials. Judge Gregory Pulskamp issued the order on December 10, 2020, prohibiting Newsom and the others named in the lawsuit from enforcing COVID-19 related restrictions against Rev. Burfitt.

The court specifically singled out the provisions of Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy and his Regional Stay at Home Order as failing to treat houses of worship in a manner “equal to the favored class of entities,” meaning “entities permitted to engage in indoor activities – also known as ‘essential businesses’ or ‘critical infrastructure’ – including big-box retail stores, grocery stores, home improvement stores, hotels, airports, train stations, bus stations, movie production houses, warehouses, factories, schools, and a lengthy list of additional businesses.

“After more than nine months of tyranny in the name of ‘containing the spread’ of a virus they have failed to contain, the gubernatorial dictators presiding over draconian lockdowns are running out of runway on their claim that churches are somehow more dangerous viral vectors than any of the litany of ‘essential businesses’ crowded with customers that they allow to operate at 100 percent capacity,” said Thomas More attorney Christopher Ferrara.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Brooklyn Diocese v. Cuomo has opened the way to the liberation of churches from the absurd and bigoted superstition that they are veritable death chambers threatening the entire population,” said Ferrara.  “Not even hair salons, which by the services offered necessitate close personal contact, have been subjected to the onerous and barefaced biases heaped upon houses of worship.

“But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. Before allowing this to occur, we have a duty to conduct a serious examination of the need for such a drastic measure,” said the Thomas Moore attorney quoting from the Brooklyn Diocese Supreme Court decision.

The ruling noted the Newsom et al. had “not convincingly established that the health risks associated with houses of worship would be any different than ‘essential businesses’ or ‘critical infrastructure.’” Accordingly, the Court held that “Pending a full trial on the merits, Defendants, their agents, and representatives, are hereby enjoined from enforcing against Plaintiff the provisions of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the Regional Stay at Home Order, and all Covid-19 restrictions that fail to treat houses of worship equal to the favored class of entities [‘essential businesses’].”

Read the order issued December 10, 2020, by Judge Gregory Pulskamp of the Superior Court of California – County of Kern, in Father Trevor Burfitt v. Gavin Newsom, et al.

 here [https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Burfitt-Win.pdf].

Read the Complaint charging eight counts of violation of California Constitution guarantees, filed on September 29, 2020, by the Thomas More Society on behalf of Father Trevor Burfitt, in Father Trevor Burfitt v. Gavin Newsom, et al. at the Superior Court of the State of California – County of Kern – Metro Division

 here [https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/California-Fr.-Burfitt-Complaint.pdf].

 

‘About the Thomas More Society

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, Omaha, and Fairfield, NJ, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit thomasmoresociety.org.


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