Let Them Pray: DOJ Calls on San Francisco to End 'Draconian' COVID Rules Against Churches

In this Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018 photo, a girl prays during a church service in Huron, Calif. California may be famous for its wealth, but there is a distinctly different part of the state where poverty prevails: places like this one halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Department of Justice is not happy with the Mayor of San Francisco. While churches and other houses of worship around the country have re-opened to varying degrees over the last several months, following the worst of the COVID pandemic, such is not the case in Mayor London Breed’s City by the Bay. Not even close.

Here’s one example. San Francisco’s Catholic Archbishop led a march to St. Mary’s Cathedral last Sunday in protest of COVID worship restrictions. “They are mocking God,” declared Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, by refusing to allow indoor masses to take place.

In a three-page letter on Friday, as reported by Fox News, Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband and U.S. Attorney David Anderson of the Northern District of California called San Francisco’s policy of allowing just one congregant inside at a time “draconian.”

Religious persecution? Here’s what they said, in part.

While acknowledging that, as is the case with all of America, San Francisco has the obligation to protect its citizens from the virus, the letter noted “there is no pandemic exception for the Constitution.”

“Even in times of emergency, when reasonable, narrowly-tailored, and temporary restrictions may lawfully limit our liberty, the First Amendment and federal statutory law continue to prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers.

“These principles are legally binding, and the Constitution’s unyielding protections for religious worshipers distinguish the United States of America from places dominated by tyranny and despotism.”

Dreiband and Anderson said the Mayor’s one-worshipper-at-a-time order gives “no reasoned explanation why its one-size-fits-all limit on indoor religious gatherings, regardless of size, is necessary or appropriate.”

It appears that Mayor Breed’s order selectively targets houses of worship, given the far more lax orders for places like barbershops, nail salons, massage locations, tattoo parlors, gyms, shops — and even childcare facilities, which can have up to 12 children indoors “even though children in a childcare center are together in an enclosed space for much longer than those attending a typical religious service.”

Regarding the above discrepancies, the letter said:

[The rules] “plainly discriminate against people of faith and their ability to gather and practice their faith at churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship.

Put simply, there is no scientific or legal justification for permitting a 20,000 square foot synagogue to admit only one worshipper while allowing a tattoo parlor to accommodate as many patrons as it can fit so long as they are six feet apart.”

The city plans to increase worship attendance by up to 25 people by the end of the month, but Dreiband and Anderson said that would still “burden religious exercise,” especially for larger houses of worship.

So, clearly, something has been going on in San Francisco that sure looks like, dare I say it, religious persecution.

Granted, the below service for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-AL) on August 1 wasn’t held in San Francisco, but as talk radio host Wayne Dupree observed, “a grieving son watches John Lewis’s funeral with hundreds of mourners, while he’s only allowed to invite 10 people to his dad’s service tomorrow.” Ah, the liberal elite never suffer, do they?

“I get it, my dad wasn’t important,” the man wrote.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera told Fox 2 of the Bay Area that the city already plans to expand capacity for religious gatherings “beyond what is described in the federal government’s letter.”

“It’s consistent with San Francisco’s careful approach and follows closely behind what the State of California allows,” he said.

Uh-huh. Same state where Governor Gavin Newsom, on Wednesday, signed an order banning sales of gasoline-powered cars by 2025.

Again, are worshippers being singled out by overzealous Democrat mayors and governors? I’m not in a position to say, but I know what I see, time and time again.

In a related piece on Thursday, titled Conservative Activist: COVID Mandates Are About Power, Not Science: Time We ‘Stop Cowering’, I reported on the arrest of a man in Moscow, Idaho, of all places, for the cardinal sin of singing psalms outside in a town square with his fellow churchgoers.

Gabe Rench was handcuffed and hauled to jail for protesting the city’s mask mandate, which requires face coverings to be worn in all public spaces — inside or out — where no social distancing is possible until January.

Rench, who is running for county commissioner and also hosts a podcast called “CrossPolitic,” said he emailed the police chief earlier in the week to remind him that his duty was to the citizens — the vast majority of whom spoke out against the mask mandate at a recent city council meeting — and their liberties above all else.

Of his arrest, Rench said:

“They kept telling me ‘I don’t want to arrest you.’ I told them ‘You don’t have to.’ I can’t believe how they are blindly going along with this. They know how dumb this is but they care more about their job and their status and their security than doing what is right.”

Clearly, Rench, the man whose dad died, and worshippers in San Francisco are going about worshipping the wrong way. You’d think they would have learned by now to grab a couple of Molotov cocktails, a few bricks, and a bat or two, and start a riot in solidarity with the “peaceful protesters” of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Worshipping as they riot, of course.