The U.S. Department of Justice on Sept. 25 warned San Francisco officials that current restrictions on public worship in the city may be unconstitutional, drawing praise from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
“Catholics in San Francisco have been patiently suffering injustice for months. At last, a competent legal authority is challenging the city’s absurd rules, which have no basis in science, but are grounded in hostility to religion and especially the Catholic Church,” Cordileone said Friday.
The DOJ on Sept. 25 sent a letter to Mayor London Breed, warning that the city’s rule allowing only “one worshipper” in places of worship at a time regardless of their size— while allowing multiple patrons in other indoor establishments— is “draconian” and “contrary to the Constitution and the nation’s best tradition of religious freedom.”
San Francisco’s restrictions on public worship remain among the strictest in the country. Until Sept. 14, public worship in the city was restricted to 12 participants outdoors, with indoor services prohibited.
As of Sept. 14, houses of worship are allowed to have 50 people at religious services outdoors, with indoor services still prohibited until at least Oct. 1.
San Francisco’s revised health order from Sept. 14 states that “[o]nly one individual member of the public may enter the house of worship at a time,” with no reason given.
The DOJ letter called on the mayor to treat places of worship equally with other venues where people share enclosed spaces, such as gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and daycares….
The DOJ cited Chief Justice John Roberts’ concurrence in the May 2020 case, in which he wrote that “restrictions on places of worship” may be consistent with the First Amendment, but only when such restrictions “apply to comparable secular gatherings.”
San Francisco City attorney Dennis Herrera defended the city’s actions in a statement Friday. He did not address the apparent disparity between restrictions on worship and on secular activities.
“Maybe the federal government should focus on an actual pandemic response instead of lobbing careless legal threats. San Francisco is opening up at the speed of safety,” Herrera said….
The above comes from a Sept. 28 story in the Catholic News Agency.