SLO County District Attorney will not prosecute those attending religious services

May 22, 2020

SLO District Attorney Dan Dow

Open letter from San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow

Dear Leaders and Members of the Faith Community,

Shortly after Gov. Gavin Newsom began issuing orders in response to COVID-19, I began fielding inquiries from leaders in the faith community concerned about the impact on their congregations. While understanding the need for social distancing, many expressed the importance of corporate gatherings to the vitality of their communities.

While most congregations have adapted by using remote video platforms, some were not able to do so. Further, it is beyond dispute that these are poor substitutes for in-person gatherings and corporate worship. Understanding these are extraordinary times, congregations in this county have worked hard to follow the temporary emergency orders.

As the governor began implementing his reopening plan, concerns were raised about the plan not allowing in-person religious services to resume in Stage 2 while other sectors of the community are (and have been) permitted to reopen so long as they employ social distancing and similar precautions. The concerns have been raised not only by religious institutions, but also by the Department of Justice.

Of particular significance, on May 19, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, sent a letter to Governor Newsom questioning whether treatment of religious activities under California’s reopening plan violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The letter quotes a recent statement by Attorney General William Barr who was at the time addressing restrictions on worship in Mississippi:

“Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers. Thus, government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity.

Assistant A.G. Dreiband goes on to state “Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.”

The District Attorney’s Office is one of the agencies responsible for enforcing public health orders. As such, several weeks ago I directed our Public Integrity Unit to monitor federal and state decisions and to conduct legal research of whether restrictions on in-person religious services are Constitutional.

We have concluded that the legal landscape remains unsettled due to conflicting decisions in various jurisdictions. Until there is further clarification from higher courts, this office will not seek criminal enforcement for alleged violations involving those who meet in-person for religious purposes during Phase 2 of the reopening plan so long as social distancing and other health guidelines are followed.

My position as we await further clarity is to err in favor of religious freedom protected by our Bill of Rights in light of the concerns raised by the Department of Justice letter referenced above and attached here for your review.

Spiritual health is a pillar of a healthy and well-balanced society that values Liberty. Thank you for your valuable contributions towards making our community vibrant and resilient.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge and thank the United States Attorneys here in California who are working hard to protect our communities and protect our civil rights guaranteed to us under the United States Constitution.


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fish

I think he should have specified his opinion as a private citizen not using his title as a elected official.


r0y

Assistant A.G. Dreiband goes on to state “Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.”


Does not sound like an opinion to me. Either there is an exception or there is not.


what the

What the?!? You won’t arrest local officials who commit blatant felonies. So much that the FBI needs to come in and do it for you. Why would you even consider arresting good church going folks? You have your hands full minding your own business, the criminals.


KAG2020

Correction…the FBI hasn’t done it either. You are so ignorant of the law and the legal process.


Ted R

Ha! This must be Dow! Settle down big boy. Learn to take a little criticism.


KAG2020

Trust me, this isn’t Dow. He is waaaay more ethical, honest and smart than I am. And I am all of the above.


Bert

Dow’s a heavy duty Bible thumper, this is why he’s writing this nonsense.


“Spiritual health is a pillar of a healthy and well-balanced society that values Liberty.”


I couldn’t diagree more here. How dare you. Religion has killed far more than it has saved throughout the years and is nothing more than a false story invented and modified only to keep control of the masses. And my oh my what a wonderful job it has done. Religion is a joke. If there’s a heaven it’s here on earth and we’re living in it. Wake up.


1965buick

Couldn’t have said it any better..


mazin

There is no greater leap in faith than to deny God, i.e., assuming God does not exist or to hate the Creator.

I ask for forgiveness for my confusion, my errant actions, love the Creator, and appreciate the wonder that is around me. Everywhere!!! It is amazing.


1965buick

Actually I’m Pagan. And I say there’s no way to know if there is a God or Gods.


r0y

Truth is revealed. I hope one day you are granted the revelation.


derasmus

That is why it’s called faith


commonsenseguy

I’m not sure of Mr. Dows faith. For all I know he could be of the Atheist religion. It really doesn’t matter regarding the decision he made. Your right, many are killed for their faith every year world wide. The most persecuted, brutalized, and tortured are of the Christian faith. According to the Pew Research, and The International Society For Human Rights(a non- religious organization) 100,000 Christians are killed every year for their belief in Jesus Christ. That’s 273 a day, or 11 per hour. I can’t image anybody being accepting of that. I hope your not.


At one point in my life I was a man with the same thought and pride you shared above. I was led by the god of my belly, pride and all the lust of this world. I thank our Heavenly Father for sending His Son as a sacrifice for me and you and choice we each have before us. I chose to make a change and put my faith in a living and loving God. As for heaven as you put it, if your a believer, then the closes thing to hell you will ever see is right here on earth. And if you are a non-believer, your right, the closes thing to heaven you’ll ever see is right here on this earth. We all have a choice. God is a just judge. He will honor your choice. Heaven or hell. There is no gray area with God. God doesn’t send you to hell, we place ourselves there. And hell is no joke. It’s real. Your right, I pray that many wake up.


KAG2020

Look at the foundation of this country. Your post is so ignorant as to be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.


Eyes Everywhere

Criminals are getting away in SLO County and Dow just shrugs. But keep people out of churches? Holy Crap. Dow wants action NOW!


No one is stopping any church from holding a service. Do it online. Do it outside. Just don’t bring 200 people under one room and cram them together. If we can’t have concerts, why would church be allowed?


KAG2020

Examples?


derasmus

Because nowhere in the Bill of Rights does it mention entertainment, specifically. Yet, the natural right to worship as we wish is listed first, both in the “establishment “ and the free practice of…


kenny113

FTFY… “While most congregations have adapted by using remote video platforms, some *CHOSE NOT to do so.” There is an endless list of streaming services available for free. If a place of worship was unable to implement remote masses, that is because they chose not to or were too lazy to do so.


So do we the people of SLO Co. get to choose to prosecute Dow for manslaughter when a second wave of infections leads to deaths and is traced back to a local place of worship? I’m sure I can find a way to make that into a a constitutional rights issue as well. Leave it to Dow to turn his DA position into a right/left debate. We need a DA who simply follows the law and does his job rather than trying to interpret his personal views into how law is enforced in this county. This guy is such a worthless tool…


kevin rise

Dow, whom has cost this county millions of tax dollars for wrongful deaths, rapist cops, drunk DUI’s cops, cops shooting dogs, a drunk mortician, and a good ol boy, is trying to be political and rally someone somewhere who can’t see through his BS and his 300k yearly salary, the asshole. I wish him the absolute worst. Someone who can politicize religion is a sick bastard. Hm, seems like alot of rich folks through history do this, use religion for economic and political gain, a place in Hell for you Dow, take Hill and Parkinson with you, take the BOS too, this county is a sickening mess.


commonsenseguy

I sense a lot of anger, rage and whole lot of self-righteous judging. Do you really wish him the worst? How would you feel if people wished that for you? I whole heartedly disagree with you, but wouldn’t wish the worst on you. Wishing people a place in hell might put you in the front of the line ahead of them. Something you might want to think about. A big mouth doesn’t make a big man. It actually reflects the exact opposite. It appears you really dislike living in this county. Your more than welcome to move on to help relieve that anger and rage that pours from you.


Francesca Bolognini

Oh great! “Super spreader” events right here in our own little county! That should be great for business! And I’m sure that is just what Jesus would want! Collective acquisition of pestilence and then a carefree sharing with the rest of the community! This is what happened in the “red” states where it was encouraged or allowed. Lots of those “religious leaders” have died for their efforts to keep their untaxed cash flow healthier than their congregations. But ya, I’m sure Jesus would have those priorities.


But that is what some would have us believe makes America “great” these days, ignorance of science and a lack of concern for public health or each other.


I would argue that to “Provide for the common defense” (mentioned in the Preamble to the Constitution – read it some time) might also include public health and a proper response to a pandemic a bit more than it does to bombing countries on the other side of the world because they have oil reserves, but hey, let’s not get too logical where our collective wellbeing and behavior as a country is concerned. After all, it is not as if we should be using our actual capacity to think to make decisions, lets leave that to the Oligarchs who are making a fortune off you guys and your blind adherence to their talking points So have at it.


Just means the rest of us will have to be that much more careful for that much longer and our local infrastructure, businesses, education, healthcare, etc. will pay the price.. Gee thanks.


DonDiego

I find it amazing that people like yourself express your opinions under the guise of saving your fellow citizen. Opinions that almost mirror Christian values on the surface, but actually only serve to exert control over society. Jesus walked with the Lepers and healed them. I believe he would praise his followers for gathering to worship God.


kevin rise

Jesus also owned nothing, was a non conformist, and also promoted worshiping god for self not the mass, and denounced congregating and organized religion, placing religion with the person and the whomever you confide in. He had a hit on his head from what civilization? The Roman’s, whom had organized mass religion as did egyptians, whom all persecuted his belief and used religion for political and economic gain. Thall shall not be spoken of, “God”. This is about a pandemic, statistics, fair governance and equality. Fyi. Masks hide your identity while all the cameras take your photo everywhere. They tried to ban masks just recently in Hong Kong last year for this reason, the right to privacy. My 2 cents. No opinions here, just data.


KAG2020

Do you support abortion rights?


r0y

“Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.”


Thank you. I am glad, but also saddened that this has to be pointed out. I guess there are SOME public servants that are not utterly useless idiots.


nunsense

Thank god! Besides who does Dan prosecute?


kevin rise

Absolutely no one, turn a blind eye to rape, negligence, fraud, embezzlement yadiyadiyah. Scum bag, a literal bald, face liar.


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