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Churches Shake Down California For $2 Million Over COVID-19 Shutdowns

Ezequiel Becerra/AFP via Getty Images

Nicole Silverio Contributor
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California will reportedly pay $2 million in legal fees after two major cases challenged church shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and won, prompting a costly settlement.

Californian churches were forced to shut down due to Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shutdown orders, first imposed in March 2020. California now owes $2,150,000 in lawyer’s fees as a result of two specific cases and can no longer impose harsher restrictions on churches than other institutions, according to Fox News. A judge approved of the settlement Tuesday, according to court records.

The two cases prompting the settlement involve the South Bay Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista and Catholic priest Father Trevor Burfitt, both arguing on the grounds of religious freedom violation, Fox News reported. The state will pay $1,600,000 for the South Bay case and $550,000 in the Burfitt case, the Thomas More Society reported. The cases also reportedly set a permanent injunction that the state cannot impose harsher restrictions on churches than other religious institutions.

Paul Jonna, an attorney at the Thomas More Society, said the state’s restrictions were unfair for allowing retail businesses to remain open while shutting down churches. (RELATED: ‘They Are Not Shutting Us Down’: San Diego Pastor To Fight Church Closure Order)

“If they’re gonna restrict Costco to 50%, then they can do the same thing to churches,” Jonna said. “But what they were doing before, as you may remember, is they were keeping those places open and they were shutting down churches-at least in California-completely.”

Newsom will reportedly pay a $1.35 million settlement to the Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, for the shutdowns.