The Justice Department is attacking San Francisco’s “draconian” restrictions on the number of people allowed at one time into houses of worship.
The city currently allows no more than one congregant at a time in any church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship, regardless of its size.
“No government in this free country can attack religion by transforming a house of worship arbitrarily into a place for solitary confinement,” said Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, according to a Friday DOJ news release.
“People of faith go to churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places to worship with their fellow believers, and they can do so lawfully because the First Amendment to the United States Constitution makes illegal any effort by government to prohibit the free exercise of religion,” Dreiband said.
“That we are dealing with a very serious public health crisis does not permit government to discriminate against religious worshipers by imposing a one-person-per-house-of-worship rule while permitting larger numbers of people to gather in tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and other places,” he added.
“There is no pandemic exception to the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights.”
In contrast to the limit of one congregant per house of worship, gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios and daycare centers can have multiple people present at any one time, as the DOJ pointed out.
A Friday letter to Democratic San Francisco Mayor London Breed from Dreiband and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California David Anderson said that “San Francisco’s treatment of places of worship raises serious concerns about religious freedom.
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