BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A Catholic priest who oversees ministries throughout Southern California, including Kern County, is suing Gov. Gavin Newsom, California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and local officials over "lockdown" measures put in place due to COVID-19.
According to the lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of Kern county, Father Trevor Burfitt has named Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine, Sheriff Donny Youngblood, and Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry for their enforcement of pandemic-related health orders.
The lawsuit also names several other city, county, and law enforcement officials from surrounding areas, including Los Angeles and San Bernadino.
"Newsom’s lockdown was originally supposed to be only a temporary emergency measure. However, nearly seven months later it appears that, absent judicial intervention, there will never be a “reopening” to normal," the lawsuit states.
The suit claims that the concept of six feet of social distance, face coverings, a ban on indoor worship and remote worship go against the concept of Catholic worship.
"It is now beyond reasonable dispute that, absent judicial intervention, Newsom intends to continue indefinitely a massive and baseless suspension of the constitutional rights of plaintiff and nearly 40,000,000 other residents of the State of California," the lawsuit states.
Father Burfitt argues that Gov. Newsom's Roadmap to Recovery rapidly evolved into a "bureaucratic maze of absurd complexity."
"Statewide, county, and municipal health directives have restricted or allowed business and personal activities based on a bewildering array of constantly morphing “health metrics” dictated by Newsom and his health officials and applied at the county and municipal level with various modifications," the lawsuit states.
He blatantly claims in the lawsuit that the state has targeted in-person worship in houses of worship for a total ban while attempting to dictate how worship must be conducted.
The lawsuit hopes to permanently bar state and county officials from enforcing the challenged coronavirus pandemic regulations against Father Burfitt and his churches, including, but not limited to the following:
- Any ban or size limitation on religious gatherings; any limitation of indoor capacity in Plaintiff’s churches.
- The six-foot “social distancing” and “face covering” mandates during worship.
- The ban on singing or chanting during worship.