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February 26, 2021

Appeals court upholds county ban on indoor religious gatherings

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed earlier exception

By Bay City News

Santa Clara County officials are applauding a federal court’s ruling that affirmed the county’s 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 late Saturday.

“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,” said James R. Williams, County Counsel. “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.”

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