Cornerstone Church in Fresno, California, just won its lawsuit against the state over COVID-19 restrictions.
A church in Fresno just captured a court victory. Last year, Cornerstone Church filed a lawsuit against the state of California over COVID-19 restrictions, and now the state will have to fork over $400,000 in attorney fees and another $100,000 in damages as part of the recent settlement.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2020 against Gov. Gavin Newsom for state-imposed capacity limits on places of worship. When commenting on the recent settlement, Jim Franklin, the pastor at Cornerstone, said the “victory highlights the importance of places of worship.” He added:
“We believe that the church is an essential part of the answer to this crisis…That church is essential!”
At a press conference after the settlement announcement, Franklin touched on all the precautions his church has been taking to help keep his congregation safe, including social distancing and optional mask-wearing. The church also installed devices designed to disinfect the air inside the building. He said, “You wouldn’t shut down a hospital in a time like this, nor should you shut down churches.”
Pastors from other churches commented on the lawsuit and the impact that COVID restrictions had on their congregations. One of these pastors was Rev. Tim Kutzmark of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fresno. He said, “his congregation was completely virtual for over a year, returning to in-person worship on June 1 of this year, complete with social distancing and masking…going virtual and staying safe never took away from the sense of community at his church.” He added, “It’s important to follow the science and protect the most vulnerable among us…And we had a thriving church community for the time that we were shut down here.”
He further stated that while he doesn’t want to point fingers at other churches, “given the worsening Covid-19 situation with the surge of the delta variant, thousands of dollars spent by the state in a legal settlement isn’t beneficial…Our ICUs are filled to capacity. I think that money could be spent more responsibly helping folks who are vulnerable.”
Shortly after the settlement announcement, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office issued the following statement:
This settlement resolves the case expeditiously and will minimize further costs associated with litigation following recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that govern restrictions on places of worship. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has taken decisive action to protect public health, saving countless lives. California is a leader when it comes to health and economic outcomes and the state will continue to be guided by science and data to support our ongoing recovery.