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California Set to Reopen Strip Clubs Before Churches

California Set to Reopen Strip Clubs Before Churches 1

A California judge ordered San Diego to reopen strip clubs even
as local officials crack down on churches.

San Diego Superior Court judge Joel R. Wohlfeil ordered the
state to end any actions that prevent the clubs from “being allowed
to provide live adult entertainment,” according to the�decision.
The owners of two strip clubs argued that their business is legally
protected speech guaranteed by the First Amendment—the same
argument that churches have been making about their own
services.

The judge’s decision is not final as that in a full hearing,
which will occur at the end of the month, but it temporarily allows
the strip clubs to reopen for indoor services, as other
institutions close. In their legal complaint, strip-club owners
argued they have complied with social distancing requirements. They
also warned that another shutdown would mean financial ruin. The
judge temporarily sided with them.

Religious-liberty advocates said that the case could pave the
way for lifting coronavirus restrictions against churches. Paul
Jonna, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which is
representing churches challenging the restrictions, expressed
confidence that this decision bodes well for the churches. If strip
clubs are entitled to constitutional protections, then churches are
as well, he told the Free Beacon.

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“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 said.

The decision comes as San Diego moves back into a “Purple Tier”
of lockdown in the midst of an increase in coronavirus cases.
Churches, gyms, and schools are all closing their indoor services
as the county attempts to combat the spread of the virus. The
lockdown requires nonessential
businesses such as churches, restaurants, and gyms to move to
outdoor-only services while permitting businesses such as salons
and barber shops to remain open.

Churches in California have been locked in legal struggles with
state authorities for months as churches of different denominations
take legal action to try to end the indefinite limitations on
indoor services. Jonna said that the San Diego decision highlights
“the absurdity” and double standards that have defined the state’s
approach to lockdowns.

“A judge who understands the Constitution will recognize the
absurdity of the current state of the law,” he said. “I think it’s
a good sign that judges are starting to question whether the
government has a legitimate interest in regulating any business or
industry at this point.”

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California Set to Reopen Strip Clubs Before Churches
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