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California to pay $1.35M to settle Harvest Rock Church lawsuit against gathering restrictions

California will have to pay over $1 million in legal fees and attorney costs as part of a settlement reached with Harvest Rock Church over litigation surrounding the state’s lockdown rules.

Last year, Harvest Rock and other ministries sued Gov. Gavin Newsom over a coronavirus pandemic lockdown order limiting the size and scope of worship gatherings they argued violated their religious freedom.

U.S. District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal issued an order last weekrequiring the state to pay the plaintiffs $1.35 million in attorney’s fees and legal costs incurred in the case.

The order also prohibited unfair treatment of houses of worship in emergency orders, explaining that the state government could “impose capacity or numerical restrictions on religious worship services and gatherings at places of worship that are either identical to, or at least as favorable as, the restrictions imposed on other similar gatherings of similar risk.”

“This Order does not prohibit the State from issuing recommendations, best practices, precautions, or other measures, as long as such promulgations make clear to the public that they are voluntary and not enforceable,” continued the order.

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver, whose legal nonprofit represented Harvest Rock, said in a statement released Monday that “Newsom has now been permanently quarantined and may not violate the First Amendment rights of churches and places of worship again.”

“We are grateful for Pastor Ché Ahn, Harvest Rock Church, and Harvest International Ministry. Pastor Ahn’s leadership and courage has toppled the tyranny and freed every pastor and church in California,” he added.