An oddball assortment of churches, strip clubs, and tattoo parlors have squeezed $4.4 million out of the state to settle their lawsuits related to COVID closures, and the state spent $9.5 million on attorneys to defend the shutdowns.
More than a hundred lawsuits have been filed against Gavin Newsom and the state of California over the various shutdowns and capacity limits instituted in the state of California since March 2020. Most of these lawsuits have been tossed out, or have been on the losing end, with courts upholding Newsom’s right to issue such emergency orders. (Anong the losers? Elon Musk!)
An aristocracy of the religious. Tandon v. Newsom was a 5-4 decision against CA's COVID-19 order limiting more than 3 households from gathering in homes. The Court has announced a right to nullify even the most urgent laws.https://t.co/BFTf4KapdZ— Michael Scott Martin (@michaelmnola) April 23, 2021
But ten of these were successful, most notably the February Supreme Court strikedown of the ban on indoor church services. Churches were behind many of these lawsuits, and the Chronicle reports that the state spent $4.36 million to settle these lawsuits — and another $9.5 million on legal fees defending their position.
Team Newsom argues this position was still effective, both from a legal, and public health standpoint. “The state has aggressively defended the public health measures imposed to keep California safe during this unprecedented pandemic,” Newsom’s spokesperson Erin Mellon said in a statement to the Chronicle. “More than 100 lawsuits have been filed, nearly all upholding the state’s restrictions.”
So which churches and other businesses got some of your taxpayer dollars by complaining the shutdowns unfairly affected them? A list, in order of the largest settlements:
- $1.6 million: South Bay United Pentecostal Church (Chula Vista)
- $1.35 million: Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry (Pasadena)
- $550,000: Father Trevor Burfitt (Bakersfield)
- $500,000: Various Santa Clara County pastors
- $140,000: Word Aflame Tabernacle (Los Angeles County)
- $95,000: San Diego County parents mad about school closures
- $60,000: San Diego strip clubs
- $15,402: Some Los Angeles tattoo shops
Overall, $4.4 million is not a ton of money for a state running a $38 billion surplus. Heck, Gavin threw around twice that much in just one day of vaccine lottery drawings. And it looked for awhile there like California’s COVID-19 prevention efforts were among the most successful in the nation. But a current look at the CDC’s state-by-state COVID transmission map shows that we’re every bit as red as the 49 other states.
Related: Three SoCal Churches Are Suing Governor Newsom Over Stay-at-Home Orders [SFist]
Top image: Demonstrators rally outside the Pennsylvania Capitol Building regarding the continued closure of businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic on May 15, 2020 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has introduced a color tiered strategy to reopen the state with most areas not easing restrictions until June 4. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)