California was – and continues to be – one of the most regressive states in the U.S. when it comes to COVID-related restrictions, coming down especially hard on churches. While bars and superstores and other establishment venues were permitted to open up, churches and other places of worship were still being shut down, and their congregants required to mask up or be vaccinated.
Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute tells AFN it made no sense. "Governors cannot treat churches differently than other essential entities and organizations," he argues. "If they're going to allow a hardware store or a marijuana dispensary or a liquor store to open up, they better also allow a church to open up."
Being a law firm focused on defending religious freedom, PJI did what it knows best to do: it went to court.
"We first had to seek an emergency writ from the United States Supreme Court in order to get the governor of California – and the county of Santa Clara, specifically – to allow churches to reopen," Dacus explains. "After liquor stores and pot shops and department stores were allowed to open, these churches were still closed."
None other than the U.S. Supreme Court eventually weighed in about a year ago, and agreed with Dacus. PJI and five churches in Santa Clara County last week reached a six-figure settlement – the PJI founder couldn't share the exact amount – and obtained a ruling that allowed churches to exercise their biblical mandate of meeting together.
The legal victory, according to Dacus, ensures those churches will continue to offer opportunities for individuals to secure their eternal destinies – which is "the best kind of remuneration," he says.
And the financial settlement, he adds, should be a warning to other jurisdictions. "Hopefully this will send a signal loud and clear to governments across America that when they decide to shut churches down, there may be a price they have to pay," the attorney concludes.
The Santa Clara County churches represented by PJI – in a joint effort with the Cannistraci Law Firm and McAllister Law Group – are Gateway City Church, The Home Church, The Spectrum Church, Orchard Community Church, and Trinity Bible Church.