San Francisco, California — July 13, 2022. Today, Center for Religious Expression (CRE) appealed an Order issued by federal court sitting in the Northern District of California, depriving Andrew Stewart (Stewart) and Andrew Conway (Conway) and their church, Christ’s Forgiveness Ministries (CFM), of meaningful relief from San Francisco park rules that impinge on their freedom to worship in public parks.
San Francisco stopped Stewart, Conway, and rest of CFM from worshipping in public parks on four separate occasions in four separate parks, issuing four separate citations, and citing various park rules as basis, specifically, rules that bar “religious events” of 50 or more, amplification for a “musical performance,” and/or a use of a table, without city permission. Each park rule stymies worship activity. Their gatherings are unavoidably religious, they need amplification so participants can hear, and they need a table so the worshippers can partake in communion.
Searching for a solution, Conway reached out to the parks department. But the city confirmed the church had to obtain a permit any time they used amplification, had a table, or had more than 50 people at their worship service. CFM then sought to obtain a permit for their worship services but could not proceed due to the costs and burdensome requirements associated with the permit. Left with no other option, Stewart and Conway contacted CRE for help.
CRE filed complaint in federal court and moved for a preliminary injunction so the church could secure relief as soon as practicable. However, no meaningful relief was forthcoming from the district court. Though the judge granted the motion in part, the victory was pyrrhic and empty because CFM must still obtain a permit for gathering, using amplification, and putting up a table, in a public park. CRE is appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to right this wrong.
“Despite the District Court’s acknowledgment that San Francisco cannot isolate religious groups for regulation, it did not provide CFM with the relief they need” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “We are pressing on so CFM can get back to worship.”
Center for Religious Expression is a servant-oriented, non-profit 501(c)(3) Christian legal organization dedicated to the glory of God and the religious freedom of His people. For more information, visit http://www.crelaw.org.