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"We've been essential for 2,000 years": California church holds service indoors despite coronavirus warnings

A church in Pasadena, California, is defying Governor Gavin Newsom's orders to shut down and is continuing to hold indoor services amid the coronavirus pandemic, CBS Los Angeles reports. Service was held at Harvest Rock Church on Sunday, during which lead Pastor Che Ahn delivered a message to the governor, who is now being sued by a group of churches. 

"I want us to pray right now that we will win that court case," Pastor Ché Ahn said, according to CBS Los Angeles. "No one is above the Constitution. No one is above the law."

"As a pastor, I believe we've been essential for 2,000 years," he continued. 

FULL SERVICE: LIVE from Los Angeles, CA. Pastor Chê Ahn "There is something larger at play here; there is a spiritual...

Posted by HRock Church on Sunday, July 19, 2020

On July 13, Newsom ordered all California counties to roll back the openings of certain venues such as indoor dining, theaters, zoos, museums and wineries as the number of COVID-19 cases surged.

Additionally, counties that remain on the state's County Monitoring List for three consecutive days must also shut down more types of businesses and activities, including gyms, places of worship, salons and malls. Los Angeles County, where Pasadena is located, is affected by this additional measure.

Now, Liberty Counsel, a conservative nonprofit that provides legal counsel in cases dealing with religious liberty, is suing Newsom on behalf of Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry, according to a press release sent to CBS News.  

Liberty Counsel claims the governor's new restrictions are "unconstitutional," in that they are "prohibiting all indoor worship services, including home Bible studies and fellowship, while encouraging mass gatherings of protestors throughout the state."

"The governor does not consider religious services 'essential' so people cannot leave their homes to go to church or to other homes for a Bible study," the press release reads. The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement against Harvest Rock Church and others involved in the suit, according to CBS Los Angeles.

In addition to the suit in California, Liberty Counsel has four other federal lawsuits pending in appeals courts against the governors of Illinois, Kentucky, Maine and Virginia, according to the press release.

In a ruling in May, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the authority of states to impose health restrictions on churches.

Pastor Ché Ahn criticized Newsom for allowing protests while shutting down indoor gatherings during the pandemic. "I just feel the hypocrisy of encouraging protests. We are all for that, but let's just be consistent," he said, according to CBS Los Angeles.

CBS News has reached out to Newsom's office and Liberty Counsel for comment and is awaiting response. 

According to CBS Los Angeles, leaders at Harvest Rock Church said they have encouraged parishioners to physically distance, wear face coverings and get their temperatures checked.

Some churches in the state have heeded warnings and stopped holding indoor services. St. Mel Catholic Church in Woodland Hills has adapted by holding online and outdoor services, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Indoor church services have been linked to the spread of coronavirus cases in a number of states and other countries

According to California state data, there have been 153,265 total cases in Los Angeles County — and 40,179 new cases in the last 14 days. There have been 4,084 total deaths in the county. Newsom's new restrictions come after the state began reopening in phases, and certain areas saw an uptick in new infections

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