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Three churches in Northern California have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom, claiming a ban on singing in places of worship — implemented to help stem the spread of the coronavirus — violates their 1st Amendment rights.

“Singing in church is a biblical mandate,” said Kevin Green, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Bragg.

Churches, like all facilities in the state deemed nonessential, were closed in March amid the governor’s stay-at-home orders at the beginning of the pandemic. But as restrictions were eased and more sectors of the economy reopened, houses of worship were allowed to welcome worshipers, beginning in May, provided they adhered to health and safety protocols, which limited attendance and, at the time, discouraged singing.

Since then, however, as the virus has surged across the state and Newsom enacted a second shutdown in much of California, the governor further tamped down on acceptable activities at church, specifying that “places of worship must … discontinue indoor singing and chanting activities.”

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