A California judge has ruled that strip clubs cannot be closed under Governor Gavin Newsom’s stringent COVID-19 restrictions.
Churches, however? Those can stay shut.
In a decision from the Superior Court, Judge Joel Wohlfeil ruled that the state had unfairly targeted strip clubs by banning them from “providing live adult entertainment.”
Wohlfeil held that the law denied strip clubs “free speech” by banning them from being able to “provide live adult entertainment.”
Strip clubs will be allowed to reopen until the end of November, when the full case will be heard. Other indoor establishments, like churches, are not part of this ruling.
However, the decision found some unexpected report from religious liberty activists. They believe that, while Wohlfeil’s decision didn’t lift the shutdown of churches, they could use his ruling to force the state to protect freedom of religion.
Paul Jonna, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, an association of California churches, explained:
“If you’re going to accept that argument that dancing nude is protected speech that’s so significant that it overcomes the government’s interest in regulating its citizens with COVID-19 orders, then obviously the divine worship of God, which is expressly mentioned in the First Amendment, should be held to a higher standard.”
Jonna believes that, if courts are beginning to restrict the governor’s ability to shut down the state, churches should soon be able to reopen.