California Gov. Gavin Newsom will have to pay $1.35 million to Pasadena’s Harvest Rock Church over a lawsuit settlement related to the COVID-19 restrictions that the state imposed on it last year.

The amount is to cover the attorney expenses incurred by the church as it filed the lawsuit against Newson’s lockdown restrictions.

Newsom’s administration is also required to spare the church from its Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus or COVID-19 protocols until an extraordinary occurrence of the virus suggests otherwise, the Washington Examiner reported, citing the May 14 order.

“After nearly a yearlong battle defending our religious freedoms, our lawsuit has reached a permanent settlement in our favor,” the Rev. Ché Ahn, founding pastor of Harvest Rock Church, said in a statement and shared on Patch. “I am thrilled to see the complete reversal of the last discriminatory restrictions against churches in California.”

Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit law firm representing plaintiff Harvest Rock Church, described Newsom as “the worst governor in America” for his approach to religious liberty.

“The church stayed open [during the lockdown], and the pastor and parishioners were threatened with daily criminal charges that were up to a year in prison,” Staver criticized.

Last year as the pandemic rolled over and strict social lockdown appeared to be the most plausible measurement to harness the spread of the airborne disease, Newsom had ordered to close all public services (including religious gatherings) except for essential businesses in mid-March.

His restrictions continued until April this year, after a short period of loosening requirements for churches on May 26, 2020, until summer, which allowed 25% capacity operation. Additionally, as Washington Examiner noted, Newsom also barred activities that outraged the public, such as singing, outdoor churches, and Bible studies.

Under such demand, Harvest Rock decided to keep on its regular operation on May 31, 2020, seeing worshipers’ need to keep on with their religious beliefs during the challenging period of the pandemic.

“Gov. Newsom’s COVID restrictions intentionally discriminated against churches while providing preferential treatment to many secular businesses and gatherings,” said Staver, who opposed the “permanent” ruling from Newsom, wanting it to stop.

According to the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal, the churches may only have to abide by the restrictions if cases of child infection climb back by 100%, with national positive figures exceed 26 per 100,000 cases and ICU hospital bed supply decrease to under 20%.

On May 14, subsequently after the Supreme Court’s decision, California moderated its policies into recommendations instead of requirements, including its attitude towards indoor singing and chanting.

In a statement to Newsweek, Newsom declared that his strict regulations were only for safeguarding his community from the threats of COVID-19, citing that California recorded the lowest rates of infected cases and also the fastest vaccine rollout in the U.S.

“This settlement resolves this case while providing clarity and certainty to the public around the public health standards applicable to places of worship following recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court,” he added.

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