South Bay United Pentecostal Church held indoor services after ruling

WASHINGTON (KUSI) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of South Bay United Pentecostal Church, located in Chula Vista, finding Gov. Gavin Newsom’s prohibition of indoor church services in violation of the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion on Feb. 5.

In the most significant legal victory against California’s COVID-19 health orders, the high court issued rulings late Friday in two cases where churches argued the restrictions violated their religious liberty. The justices said for now California can’t continue with a ban on indoor church services, but it can limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity and restrict singing and chanting inside.

The court was acting on emergency requests to halt the restrictions from Pasadena-based Harvest Rock and Harvest International Ministry, which has more than 160 churches across the state, along with South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista.

South Bay United Pentecostal Church has been combating in court for months to hold indoor services.

The governor’s office on Saturday issued new guidelines that limit attendance at indoor services in areas of the state with widespread or substantial virus spread to 25% of a building’s capacity. Indoor services in areas with moderate to minimum spread are limited to 50% capacity.

“We will continue to enforce the restrictions the Supreme Court left in place and, after reviewing the decision, we will issue revised guidelines for worship services to continue to protect the lives of Californians,” the governor’s press secretary, Daniel Lopez, said in Saturday’s statement.

Before the ruling, indoor worship services were banned in purple-tiered counties — those deemed to be at widespread risk of coronavirus transmission. This tier accounts for the vast majority of the state.

Chula Vista’s South Bay United Pentecostal Church had defied state orders since last May by holding service indoors while following COVID-19 safety protocols.

Bishop Art Hodges, Senior Pastor of South Bay United, joined KUSI to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and holding church service indoors.

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