Bishop Arthur Hodges, whose South Bay United Pentecostal Church in San Diego lost a Supreme Court fight in May against California novel coronavirus restrictions, joked on Newsmax TV on Thursday he was willing to be considered a reality television production if it would allow his congregation to celebrate Christmas on Friday.
Hodges comments on “American Agenda” were in reference to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest restrictions issued on Dec. 4 ostensibly to slow the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Those orders banned indoor gatherings for church services but allowed film and television production to continue.
The church sued again – in light of November’s ruling that blocked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s similar action in a suit brought by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn — and was awaiting a ruling from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals later Thursday in hopes of holding Christmas services.
“If we get a favorable ruling today, then we look forward to inviting people to South Bay United Pentecostal Church at 10 a.m.,” Hodges said. “So, come worship. We’ll be part of a reality production. This is real church taking place. We’ll be filming it.”
Hodges and Pentecostal have been challenging Newsom’s orders restricting or banning religious services since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the spring. It’s first challenge reached the Supreme Court in May, when the court – in a 5-4 decision – ruled against the church. However, with the more conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett having replaced liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 for churches in the Cuomo-Brooklyn case.
In October, the 9th Circuit vacated U.S. District Court U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant’s order denying Pentecostal’s request to allow it to conduct services. After Bashant denied Pentecostal’s latest request on Tuesday, Hodges appealed to the 9th Circuit, which ordered Newsom’s office to respond.
“In the judge’s most recent decision denying our most recent request to open, and that is that the judge that just denied us…she indicated in her ruling that in California it’s OK to continue operating movie sets, and movie production facilities,” Hodges said. “So ostensibly…in California it’s OK to pretend like your having church, 24/7, as long as your filming a movie. But you can’t legally meet for one hour on one day, once a week. That’s just amazing.”
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