Appeals Court Upholds Santa Clara County’s Ban on Indoor Religious Gatherings

Santa Clara County officials are applauding a federal court’s ruling that affirmed a local ban on indoor gatherings.

The ruling reversed the court’s earlier decision to provide an exception for churches to the county's prohibition of indoor gatherings of any kind, after determining that the ban does not single out churches or houses of worship.

Friday’s temporary ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit extends the county’s ban on indoor gatherings to include churches once again, which allows the ban to remain until the court makes a final decision.

County officials heralded the decision in a statement issued over the weekend.

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision affirms that the County's health orders are neutral, across-the-board rules focused on preventing the spread of Covid-19,” County Counsel James Williams said. “Many in our community are eager to gather indoors together, including for indoor worship, but it is vitally important that we continue to keep our community safe and do everything we can bring the pandemic under control.”

Williams noted the efforts of the local faith community in the county’s official statement.

“We are grateful for the continued leadership of our faith community in the Covid-19 response,” Williams said. “The vast majority of our faith community have been gathering outdoors or online so that they can worship safely and protect the broader community from serious illness and death. And our faith community continues to partner with the county to support vaccination, testing, and other critical efforts to get all of us through to the other side of this pandemic.”


  1. Sure I can. This is American and this idiotic shutdown has been going on for months. This is America and one of the most fundamental rights American have is the right to practice their religion. It’s one thing to have a temporary shutdown for a week or a month but it is another thing when it drags on for months and years.

    People Die.

    Get over it.

    These government control freaks are never going to let up. These jokers will always find a reason from keeping you living like an American.

    It might not be a good idea to have a large public gathering but that isn’t a right the government can take away from you.

  2. If I owed a $1M in fines as a church then good luck with collecting it. I won’t be paying it.

    At some point you have to say enough is enough.

    The original timeline for ending this idiotic shutdown was a couple of weeks or a month. Now we are at almost a year.

    People Die.

    Get over it.

    We all aren’t going to stay shutdown for years on end.

  3. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    The free exercise of religion, as guaranteed in the Constitution, would seem to any unbiased interpreter to include the right of adherents to assemble in a structure established and considered essential by those same adherents to the proper exercise of their beliefs. It is patently un-American to believe that anyone, in or out of government, should have the right to barricade a house of worship, be it by force of arms or threat of ruin, so as to deny worshipers the right to assemble and enjoy the divine protection unique to a structure they believe sacred, under the banner of “it’s for their own good.”

    (If the courts continue to facilitate the totalitarian impulses of the simpleminded progressives in office we will soon learn that public health will best be served by the confiscation of private property and firearms, limitations on freedom of speech and assembly, and restrictions on every other natural right that protects us from life in the yoke, violent rebellion is guaranteed.)

    The free exercise of religion is an individual right and what the First Amendment prohibits is government inserting itself between an individual’s beliefs and his exercise thereof. For those who believe themselves part of a religious flock, assembly is part and parcel of their religion, and thus each and every member is singularly protected. To compare religious assembly to the practice of polygamy is to contrast individual, Constitutionally-recognized behavior (deemed beyond the reach of lawmakers) with behavior that is, quite obviously, neither individual nor beyond the reach of lawmakers (who’d historically governed marriage). This important distinction is revealed by the fact that there is no church in America where within its walls behavioral rights are extended beyond the individual (which is why victim consent is no defense in pedophilia cases).

    Every church member has the Constitutional right to attend services, kneel in solitary prayer, or be married (or buried) in the house of, and presence of, their god. Judges who rule otherwise do so out of allegiance to something other than our beloved Constitution.

  4. SG,

    A church without worshipers is a building. It becomes a church when it is utilized and made sacred as such by people exercising their religion. Using your queer brand of logic, because a cross is nothing but a man-made object its status is no more special than any other object, such as a toaster — a position which would allow the government to ban the wearing of crosses in public (should the totalitarians you worship decide that Christian crosses are offensive symbols of white privilege).

    For many people, including those practicing religions traditional to this nation, churches are not optional accessories for worshiping their god; they are essential and there is no evidence the Founders thought otherwise. That our county supervisors do not recognize churches as essential is hardly surprising as they have busied themselves with important work such as worshiping diversity, abetting Hispanic infiltration, excusing African-American criminality, and celebrating the sexually odd.

    Nothing in the Bill of Rights (or in my post, for that matter) suggests that unlawful conduct is or should be protected. How you concluded that religious leaders who exploit their followers was germane to my post can only be known by you (or your therapist).

  5. SG,

    “That situation makes the “church” building in effect not a special place at all.”

    Not special to whom? It’s obvious you believe that even when an individual’s behavior is Constitutionally-protected the state, or maybe you yourself, should have the right to direct it. Garbage! What the Constitution guarantees is that the state will recognize no one church in order that every believer can recognize his own.

    Also, your assertion that a church is defined by its furniture is absurd. Believers can repurpose a Wienerschnitzel into a church should they convince themselves god will be able to find them.

    “no one even suggests you cannot wear a cross, nor forbids you from believing in god, or praying to a god.”

    Among Lenin’s early decrees was one that led to the confiscation of church property. This was followed by the removal of religious references, the murder of bishops and monks, and laws making it illegal for parents to teach religion to their children.

    “Then why put in the U.S Constitution a “separation” of “church” and “state”.”

    Your ignorance is spectacular. Church must be separated from state in order to protect one from the other. A church empowered with the authority of law compels belief and rules accordingly (e.g. the outlawing of Protestantism by the Catholic Church during the murderous Inquisition), while state control of religion results in hegemonic control over everything (including, as we know, women’s fashions).

    “Based on a written work of fiction “The Bible” because there is no evidence found to support that the world is only say 10,000 years old.”

    You have, by way of sources outside organized religion, decided the Bible does not accurately tell the story of creation. Does it not occur to you that, were church and state not separate, you might never have had access to the outside sources that led to your skepticism? Are you not aware that 421 years ago Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake because an all-powerful church objected to some conclusions he reached based upon his unapproved investigation of the cosmos? Wouldn’t you like the government to protect your right to read, believe, and share the information that interests you, be it spiritual or scientific?

    Dude, get a clue.

  6. –“WOW, you really are going further into irrational thought, the state HAS the right to protect public health, and that’s what it is doing, it is NOT directing any church to change its beleifs.”

    In an earlier comment you cited one example of a church facing a million dollars in fines; how is that protecting public health? Shouldn’t individual church members have as much right to weigh the risks of attending church (and satisfying their spiritual needs) as do home buyers attending open houses, do-it-yourselfers at Home Depot, smokers getting their cigarettes at 7-11, or boozers shopping at liquor stores?
    You act as if you (or the state) has some form of proof that denying spiritual people from the traditional practice of their religion is harmless. But no such proof exists, and given mankind’s history of risking life and property in pursuit of exactly that type of religious freedom I say the evidence is against you.

    – “Again, then there is not “essential” nature that one must exercise their beleiefs at a particular PLACE or TIMME, and it never was.”

    So says you and your totalitarian progressives. I dare you to take up a post outside Mecca during the Hajj and tell those Muslims to turn back; that the place and time they hold sacred is neither considered essential nor respected by you and your people (please take the board of supes along). Your head(s) would soon thud to the ground.

    – “NO ONE has even hinted at this potential future. There are no “security forces” getting prepared to seized the buildings of a church or round up any religious followers.”

    No one hinted that the temporary lockdown would last into the new year, or that qualified physicians with differing opinions about the virus, the lockdown, treatment protocols, etc. would be ostracized, booted-off YouTube, and terrified into silence.

    – “look at another example when the “church” rules over state, the Salem Witch trials. Simply because you and your friends in effect believe there is a “Satan.”

    Now you’re arguing against the alignment of church and state? You’re obviously confusing yourself. From a practical standpoint, it would not have mattered in Salem whether it was the church ruling over the state or vice versa. But one thing is certain, the trials couldn’t have taken place had government power (the power to bring charges) been properly separate from religious belief.
    As for my belief in Satan, just another example of you erroneously assuming things in spite of your ignorance.

    – “Please understand, the way air-borne viruses spread works is any person acting unsafely, is a threat to the entire population, whether they are “Faith-based” or not. Thus, this argument is pointless. The ‘state” has the responsibility to protect the public, and it will do so.”

    That state you seem so fond of has declared racism, white supremacy, climate change, and the Trump administration to be existential (i.e. life and death) threats to our nation. So, given your interpretation of the state’s responsibility to protect the public, I guess there’s going to be a lot more aggressive protecting going on in America. You know, Hitler considered Jews to be existential threats to the Third Reich, and promptly took action to remedy the danger. How’d that little historical episode sit with you?

  7. SG: You logic is sound, but your premise if false. You then begin a flawed, but logically consistent journey to an incorrect conclusion. In a nutshell, you asserted there is no tension between the prohibition against encouraging religious activities and discouraging religious activities. It is impossible to govern a society through laws without laws either at least implicitly encouraging or discouraging religious activities. Even when the intent of laws have nothing to do with religious activities, the implementation of laws can have the practical effect of encouraging or discouraging. The mere presence of any laws can ultimately be traced to religious activities after enough attenuation. Therefore, the Supreme Court has ruled upon how to address this impossible task of governing a nation within the confines of the 1st Amendment. These rules are not based in logic, as there can be no logic once the logical impossibility has been established. Therefore, the rules are a practical application that reconciles the tension between encourage vs. discourage. For example prohibiting headdress for everybody is against the “discouragement” clause for Muslims and Jews. Forcing all inmates to eat pork is against the “discouragement” clause. Therefore, it has been established as unconstitutional that prohibiting the gathering of religious members for the purpose of worship as a “discouragement” even when ALL gatherings are prohibited IF such prohibition continues for “too long.” What is “too long”? That hasn’t been determined but I suspect more than a year will be found to be “too long” and “less then a month” is not too long–unless specific black-out dates are used. For example, discouraging gatherings on Dec 25th because of a scientific correlation of health hazard would likely be determined to violate the “discouragement” clause even if applied to everybody because of the religious significance to SOME religions.

    You really need to read a lot of case law to understand the nuances of how this works. But logic is not the answer to this riddle.

  8. BTW: Encouraging or Discouraging is apply to those activities that are “inalienable from a religious act (aka: practice of religion). For example, forbidding prayer would be an inalienable practice of many religions. Gatherings have not been explicitly determined to be inalienable, but I suspect it will be.

    Then to go from the macro–a religion to the micro–violating an individual’s rights, the inalienable right of a religion must apply the individual as a “deeply held belief.” For example, for a desire to use peyote, an individual can invent their “newly-found-faith” in native american religions.

  9. “intention” is not the standard from which constitutionality is determined. Again, you need to read much case law.
    Religious beliefs are being “touch on” in that the filing for remedy is fully asserting that they are. Of course you are entitled to your opinion, but that opinion is not binding, or even part of the court record. This case will be determined based upon the arguments proffered, which indeed do “touch on religion.”
    Most of your posts are filled with either, unauthoritative sources or assertions of legal fact absent a finding of fact. The first are facebook posts, ACLU opinions, library of congress information, etc…these are nothing but word-salad and absent any legal precedence and might (and “might” is generous) be viewed as “persuasive” sources in the eyes of a court. The second is your conflation of Court findings as precedence and court rulings on orders. An order applies only to a case and sometimes, such as this case, only during the judicial process.
    I can tell you have no legal training and believe you are pretty smart. But, this is not enough. You must also know the legal process as it exists and not as you wish (or imagine) it to be. You might try citing your cases and building your argument from there. But even that won’t be very easy without substantive knowledge on constitutional law. Have you had such training?

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