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Fr. Trevor Burfitt (May 2020)Our Lady of the Angels / YouTube

CALIFORNIA, October 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic priest in California is suing Governor Newsom, along with 19 other officials for what he describes as his “tyrannical COVID-19 control measures” which place severe restrictions on churches and religious services.    

In a 77 page document filed on September 29, Fr. Trevor Burfitt, a priest of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), issued a withering attack upon Newsom, saying that his restrictions on religious worship in violation of the constitution, are “no longer warranted” and are “causing more harm than good.” 

The document is introduced by a quotation from the case of the Department of Health vs Manke: “It is incumbent on the courts to ensure decisions are made according to the rule of law, not hysteria…One hopes that this great principle—essential to any free society, including ours—will not itself become yet another casualty of COVID-19.” 

Stating that “a bona fide health emergency has not existed in California for several months, Fr. Burfitt warns that Newsom intends to continue to restrict religious worship.

“Newsom intends to continue indefinitely a massive and baseless suspension of the constitutional rights of plaintiff and nearly 40,000,000 other residents of the State of California, the lawsuit states. 

The document extensively covers a wide range of issues: the unnecessary state of emergency; the mis-reporting of COVID-19 cases; the uselessness of face masks; the irrationality of social distancing; the “threat of a Permanent Medical Dictatorship,” as well as the egregious effect which such laws are having upon religious worship. 

Fr. Burfitt outlines the double standards which are used in determining which venues are permitted to open, with churches and religious worship being termed as non-essential, whilst “liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, and the Hollywood movie industry” are deemed essential services. “One can enter a bookstore and browse for as long as one wishes, but one is forbidden to set foot in a church to worship God,the lawsuit explains. 

On the contrary, Fr. Burfitt declares that churches and religious worship “are unquestionably essential to people’s lives.” 

Fr. Burfitt even makes the comparison between the toleration permitted for Black Lives Matter protests, and yet not for religious institutions.  

“One can march shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of shouting, singing, and chanting political protesters—many without masks—but one is forbidden to be closer than six feet to a fellow worshipper or to sing a religious hymn or intone Gregorian chant during Holy Mass,the lawsuit notes. 

Fr. Burfitt also references several instances of Newsom’s own personal support for the mass protests, whilst still quashing the rights of religious institutions.  

The lawsuit presents four chief ways in which Newsom’s laws have detrimentally affected churches:  • Severe restrictions on houses of worship, which are not imposed on favored businesses 

• A total ban on indoor worship, which was imposed for the second time on July 13, 2020, in 38 counties comprising 86% of California’s population, including those in which Fr. Burfitt engages in his ministry 

• A ‘social distance’ bubble zone of six feet around every person, which precludes the proper conduct of Catholic worship 

• A ‘face covering’ mandate, which not only radically interferes with Catholic worship in numerous ways but irrationally threatens individual health in the manner alleged below.” 

In retaliation to laws regarding social distancing and the mandating of mask wearing, the document states that such measures directly have a negative effect upon religious worship. Regarding the six foot bubble, which is mandatory throughout the state, it reads: “This ridiculous requirement simply cannot be observed without abandoning Catholic worship as such, reducing it to mere preaching from a distance.”  

With reference to face masks, the paper further asserts: “Newsom’s ‘face covering’ mandate is yet another undue burden on Father Burfitt’s sincerely held religious beliefs and practices as a pastor of souls.” 

Fr. Burfitt argues that the laws being enforced are severely intrusive to Catholic worship in every aspect.  

“Never in the entire 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church, not even during the Roman persecutions, have Catholics been subjected to such preposterous secular intrusions on their Masses, prayers, and Sacraments….Newsom’s regime of tyrannical COVID-19 control measures, enforced by counties and municipalities as pleaded above, has interfered radically in virtually every aspect of Catholic worship in Father Burfitt’s parish and mission churches, his lawsuit states.  

The Thomas More Society, who are representing Fr. Burfitt, declared: “It is now beyond reasonable dispute that, absent judicial intervention, Governor Newsom intends to continue, indefinitely, a massive and baseless suspension of the constitutional rights of Father Burfitt and nearly 40 million other residents of the state of California.”  

The legal team continued by affirming that, “this is unconstitutional and a blatant violation of the rights guaranteed by California’s constitution.” 

Having charge of mission churches in four counties, Fr. Burfitt has a significant number of people under his pastoral care. He consequently states: “No further limitations on religious exercise are justifiable, including the six-foot personal ‘bubble zone,’ the ‘face covering mandate,’ and the ban on ‘singing or chanting,’ especially (but not only) because there is no longer a bona fide ‘health emergency’ in the State of California.”