Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministries (HIM,) under the leadership of Pastor Che Ahn, has initiated a federal civil complaint against Governor Newsom’s latest restrictions which have been specifically aimed at criminalizing in-person worship (both in and outside of private citizens’ homes,) as well as criminalizing chanting and singing during such worshipful service.
It is the goal of Harvest Rock Church to protect the first amendment constitutional rights of the church and all people, while taking a specific stand against the misclassification of the worship of God as non-essential during this time of national unrest, economic strife, and physical ailment.
From early March of this year, Harvest Rock Church and the HIM network strictly adhered to the original state guidelines, first closing doors for several months and later utilizing above-standard safety protocols during in-person service. The church, recognizing congregants as a unified family rather than ‘customers’ or ‘clients’ of those businesses who have been deemed “essential,” has maintained throughout the last six months the importance of keeping congregants and the community safe. Safety, which was the original publicized goal of government mandates in California, has always been both the goal and the supportive action of Harvest Rock Church and the HIM network.
Recently in California, however; state leaders have consistently argued for and encouraged protestors of social justice initiatives to both congregate and chant, often while using slogans that are degrading, defamatory, and sometimes even violent. “Now is the time for courage. Now is the time for your voice to be brought to the forefront….” stated Governor Newsom, “Protesters have the right not to be harassed. Protesters have the right to protest…”
The Governor neither reminded protestors of current orders in place affecting citizens of California, nor diligently addressed protestors regarding the necessity to social distance while thousands gathered. Soon thereafter, Governor Newsom enacted the latest order which criminalizes the worship of God, both in the house of God and in private residences, in addition to criminalizing singing, chanting, and other means of praise. This egregious wrong and set of double standards prompted Pastor Che, Harvest Rock Church, and Harvest International Ministry to advocate for first amendment rights and the equal treatment of all citizens, by initiating this federal complaint.
Pastor Che Ahn said it best himself, “The church has been essential for 2000 years.” The church has forever been, and will continue to be, a place of healing for the people – a place of salvation, strength, love, guidance and the ultimate unity. Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministries stands against all injustice and division, targeted segregation of civil liberties amongst citizens, and the injustice in deeming God, and the praise of God, as both non-essential and now criminal in the State of California.
“Why are you suing? The Bible says to pray and honor those in leadership”
One of America’s founding fathers, John Adams, said, “Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.” Harvest Rock Church seeks to protect the rights of people to worship freely and safely.
We see a biblical precedent in the way the apostle Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen to (1) request due process after he was beaten and jailed, and (2) to appeal to Caesar, which is how he arrived in Rome where he continued to share the Gospel. The Bible specifically speaks about not suing Christian brothers and sisters when the dispute can be resolved internally in the church. However, there is no prohibition to using your civil rights when the Gospel is at stake. In fact, when Peter was told not to preach in the name of Jesus in order to be released from jail, he said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Moreover, the state does not have jurisdiction over the church. In the Old Testament, the king did not have jurisdiction over the priests and the Temple, and the priests did not have jurisdiction over the king. Jesus also speaks of these two jurisdictions when he said, “Render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and to God the things that belong to God” (Matthew 22:21).
“Why are you meeting when you have online service? You can worship God from anywhere.”
In the past, we have met both inside and outside a church building. The great heat of Southern California, often reaching into the 80s and 90s on Sunday mornings, is a significant deterrent from meeting outside. It is our best intention to protect our right to meet anywhere, which certainly includes meeting inside the house of God.
We have met inside the Ambassador Auditorium for the last four weeks, with not one case of reported COVID-19. Harvest Rock Church protects our community and family, both in health and in liberty.
Scripture also admonishes the church to intentionally meet in-person. The Bible states that we should not forsake the assembling together of ourselves, as is the habit of some people (Hebrews 10:24-25). Jesus also said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). And the Bible frequently talks about singing our praises to the Lord (Colossians 3:16). Additionally, the Bible speaks of the laying on of hands to anoint people and to heal the sick. There are many people who are hurting and suffering in our community, and it is important for Harvest Rock Church to meet together in-person in order to minister to them.
“You are putting your congregation members at risk. You are being irresponsible as a church.”
In-person services have always been, and continue to be, entirely voluntary. We are here to serve those members of our community whose needs include worshiping in the house of God. The option to attend church in the house of God is a sacred right that we intend to protect for both our family and friends. Indeed, assembling together is a biblical command (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We are providing people an option to continue watching our services online, and for those without symptoms or health risks, we are also providing the option to meet in-person. Harvest Rock Church loves and values our people and our community.
By contrast, frequent visits to grocery and retail stores present equal or greater risks than that of a weekly church service. While we will continue to take precautions to protect our church family, we will not live in fear. (link to safety measures)
“The church is meeting for financial gain because giving is down”
Due to COVID-19, we are not holding collections during any in-person services. Indeed, our decision to meet in-person has nothing to do with finances. It is the best intention of Harvest Rock Church to tangibly serve the members of our community by meeting in-person.
“What makes the church essential, and exempt from the law?”
Houses of worship have been essential to societies for thousands of years, and now it is more essential than ever to help hurting people. Houses of worship, while essential, are not exempt from the law. In fact, no one is exempt from the law, which is why it is so important to defend the Constitution of the United States and our unalienable rights. The First Amendment to the Constitution provides special protection to the church through the Free Exercise of Religious Clause and the Establishment Clause.
Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly ruled that the state has no authority to force anyone from attending church: “Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church… Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will.” [Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Twp., 330 U.S. 1, 15 (1947) (emphasis added)]
“Explain demonic forces shutting down church in America.”
The USA was founded by a group of people who were fleeing religious persecution in England. Our Constitution’s First Amendment provides for the unalienable right to worship: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
It is very difficult to justify the notion that suddenly in 2020 — amid high global tensions, a health crisis, and a social justice movement where thousands are consistently encouraged to meet and chant in-person — that the church would be specifically targeted and criminalized for meeting in-person. The shutting down of churches in America is an egregious and immoral movement, which is being spurred on by leaders choosing to purposely ignore the oaths that they have sworn to uphold. This movement is concerning and needs to be met with lawful and moral correction.
Why do you not meet outside? (What is the reason why HRC does not accept to follow the pandemic rules and provide their services outdoors for the safety of people?)
When Harvest Rock Church first initiated this complaint, it was in May when temperatures were in many cases unbearable and unrealistic for meeting outside. Fast forward to today, six months later, and while the weather has changed – the prejudicial order against the church has not.
When some may exert an opinion that “common sense” should lend to an outdoor meeting, where is the common sense in Governor Gavin Newsom’s tiered Blueprint order which is the topic at hand. Tier 1 of said order prohibits gathering for any worship services in over 41 California counties, but simultaneously makes caveats for any nonreligious gatherings within the same churches to feed, shelter, and provide social services such as nonreligious counseling to an unlimited number of individuals. Unfortunately, per this order, as soon as someone begins to pray in that same setting, they become subject to the Governor’s March 19th Executive Order which includes a misdemeanor criminal offense, up to USD 1,000 in fines, six months in jail or
both. There is a clear religious prejudice within these orders and similar ones in other states which beg the common sense question – if a building is unfit to use for religious services in any capacity, why is it fit for such a host of other gatherings?
In the recent New York case of the Catholic Diocese, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch noted, “It is time – past time – to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops, but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”
What is your reaction to Judge Jesus Berraca denying the motion?
As many know, on November 20th, Liberty Counsel representing Harvest Rock Church and Pastor Ché Ahn filed with the Supreme Court of the United States asking for an emergency injunction pending appeal as well as a grant of certiorari prior to judgement. Our request was granted by the Supreme Court on December 3rd and our case remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit where Judge Jesus Berraca presides.
Our attorney, Mat Staver’s filed documents in the ninth court of appeals speak directly to situations in which a precedent in a similar case has been set by the Supreme Court (such as the decision made last week in the case of Catholic Diocese v. Cuomo,) the practice of using GVR orders to resolve non-final litigation is based in judicial economy, and is a correct way to permit parties, such as Plaintiffs here to obtain the necessary relief from the lower courts when the Supreme Court has issued a decision fundamentally altering the applicable precedent to issues active in current litigation.” As per Lawrence v. Chater, 516 U.S. 163, 167 (1996,) “A GVR order conserves the scarce judicial resources of this Court that might otherwise be expended on plenary consideration (and) assists the court below by flossing a particular issue that does not appear to have been fully considered.”
While Judge Berraca did not follow the precedent of the Supreme Court, providing further protection to the Draconian orders of Governor Gavin Newsom, and thus plunging churches and parishioners in California into an immediate irreparable injury – as stated in the Supreme Court opinion of Elrod vs. Burns which reads “the loss of first amendment freedoms for even a minimal period of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.”
It is both a God-given and Constitutional right to worship in person, which has been agreed by the Supreme Court as per the recent decision in the case of Catholic Diocese v. Cuomo. At Harvest Rock Church, we are prayerful and confident that the Supreme Court will act similarly in our case as they have in the recent precedent case and look forward to the day when it is clear to all that the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America is very much in effect, superseding any orders by lower branches of Government.
Has anyone in the Harvest Rock family tested positive for or otherwise been affected by Coronavirus?
Coronavirus has affected the congregation in a variety of ways. Like most Californians, the financial strain due to the closure of many industries has caused considerable burden in the form of lost personal and small business incomes. Additionally the lack of understanding of social seclusion has begun to see effects in that people, in general, are experiencing fervent anxiety and unaddressed associated mental stress. The US Census Bureau reported in July of this year that over “44% of California adults reported levels of anxiety and gloom typically associated with diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder." The Harvest Rock church seeks to continue the mission to advance the kingdom of God through his love and his power while offering consistent support to the congregation and community of Pasadena, CA. Within our network of 160 churches in the state of California, we have had church members infected with Covid 19, but luckily have not had cases of inter-service contagion. We continue to use our best practice Covid 19 safety procedures to protect our staff and members of our congregation.
What kinds of precautions is Harvest Rock taking to ensure the health and safety of your congregants?
Harvest Rock Church is taking strict precautions which have been sourced from both the CDC as well as businesses and entities who have either successfully reopened or have never closed through Covid-19 for being deemed “essential” such as gas stations,
marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores.
Precautions include but are not limited to: functioning at limited/reduced capacity, suspending pre and post services, requiring attendees to preregister, social distancing while both standing and seating, the taking of temperatures of both the congregation and staff members before entry using a non-invasive thermometer, the requirement to wear masks upon building entry, and the wearing of gloves by staff members, etc. Additionally, the building is consistently sanitized and well maintained. Pastor Che Ahn and many other pastors and staff are tested weekly for Covid-19.
The Ninth Circuit denied the motion from Harvest Rock Church for a second time. What are the next steps the church plans to take?
Harvest Rock Church attorney Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel has filed a renewed application to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking an injunction in our federal lawsuit against California Governor Gavin Newsom’s unconstitutional worship ban and discriminatory treatment.
Recently, in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court accepted a request by the Governor to delay the hearing to December 18. This pending matter has been frequently postponed by requests from the Governor since July of this year, lending to the grave situation faced by the church in the form of threats of fine and arrest. We have returned to the Supreme Court to request relief.
To read the full details visit: https://lc.org/newsroom/details/120920-ca-churches-return-to-scotus
All schools and universities switched to online learning, most companies obliged their employees to work remotely. Why is the church not satisfied with the provision of its ceremonies online?
As a church, it is our duty to fulfill the spiritual needs of our members. We hold all services online and use state of the art production tools to make our web services as palpable for our congregation as possible. During this time, we have asked those with underlying conditions to stay home and have urged the elderly to watch online whenever possible. That said, we are in a season of extremes, where many of our members have found the need for fellowship and in-person guidance/worship services more important than ever. We do not presume to judge the relationship between man and God or to tell our congregation how they should worship, in fact: it is our absolute duty as a church to honor the traditions of worship and to make those traditions available for those who require them. We hold firm that it is a God-given and United States Constitutional right to worship in person or anywhere, and we will fulfill our duty to our congregation while providing safe and sane measures of protection.
How would you comment on the recent court decisions?
For media inquiring for interviews or comments regarding the current lawsuit, please direct questions to publicist Adelheid Waumboldt of ISET Agency at 424.333.4430 or email@example.com
How Do We Financially Support This Effort?
Thank you for your heartfelt desire to support Pastor Ché, Harvest International Ministry and Harvest Rock Church in their stand for Freedom to Worship our Lord, Jesus Christ. The direct lawsuit costs are being handled pro bono by Liberty Counsel, though there are indirect costs being absorbed by Harvest International Ministry and Harvest Rock Church. If you feel you’d like to contribute to any of these organizations, here are the links you can use to give…
Donating to Harvest International Ministry:
Donating to Harvest Rock Church:
Donating to Liberty Counsel: