The DOJ has a few questions about California’s Newsom sending churches and synagogues to the back of the bus.
The Justice Department on Tuesday put California Gov. Gavin Newsom on notice, claiming that his plan for the state’s staggered re-opening from the threat posed by the coronavirus discriminates against religious groups and a return to in-person worship services.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, chief of the department’s Civil Rights Division, warned the governor that places of worship were being forced to take a back seat to a gradual resumption of operations at schools, restaurants, offices and shopping malls.
That’s what you do when you believe, as Newsom does, that religion is non-essential or downright pernicious.
Which of these is not like the other?
California is starting the process of reopening some areas of its economy and activities following restrictions designed to prevent or slow the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19.
The state is currently early in “stage two,” which allows curbside retail service and some manufacturing and other activity with restrictions.
In-person religious services, along with hair and nail salons and movie theaters, aren’t eyed until stage three, and even then, there will be limits on the size of gatherings, according to published materials on the plan.
Nail and hair salons require close proximity and have no special constitutional protection. Religious services don’t and do.
Dreiband, in a letter to the governor, cast the policy as “differential treatment” that unfairly singled out religious worship for restrictions that the state would not impose on other activities.
“The Department of Justice does not seek to dictate how states such as California determine what degree of activity and personal interaction should be allowed to protect the safety of their citizens,” the letter states. “However, we are charged with upholding the Constitution and federal statutory protections for civil rights. Whichever level of restrictions you adopt, these civil rights protections mandate equal treatment of persons and activities of a secular and religious nature.”
It’s about time that there were equal rights. Instead of condescending dismissals.
Newsom said Monday at a news conference that some restrictions on churches, including counseling services and other activities, have been eased, “but for the congregants, that’s a few weeks away.”
He expressed his “deep admiration” to the faith community and its desire to know when congregants can return.
That’s how you talk to a minority you don’t understand and have contempt for, but patronize on occasion.
That’s not how you talk to the bearers of the First Amendment.