Coronavirus: Justice Department says California order to reopen some secular businesses discriminates against churches

The head of the federal Justice Department's Civil Rights Division told Gov. Gavin Newsom that his plan to reopen California discriminates against churches.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The head of the federal Justice Department's Civil Rights Division told Gov. Gavin Newsom that his plan to reopen California discriminates against churches.

In a letter to the governor Tuesday, the official said that despite the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, Newsom should allow some in-person worship.

Restaurants and other secular businesses are being allowed to reopen under social distancing guidelines but not churches, which are limited to online and similar services.

RELATED: Coronavirus: Officials aim for 'safe reopening' of Los Angeles County as early as July 4
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Officials announced Tuesday they are aiming for a "safe reopening" of Los Angeles County as early as July 4.



The governor says churches and other religious institutions could start welcoming back the faithful for limited in-person services in the coming weeks.

Newsom on Monday announced relaxed standards that individual counties need to meet to reopen more sectors of their local economy.

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The governor estimated 53 of 58 counties could meet the new criteria.

Twenty-four counties in mostly rural Northern California had already been cleared to move faster under the old standards.

In Los Angeles County, officials announced Tuesday they are aiming for a "safe reopening" of as early as July 4. All pet grooming and training businesses, along with car washes, are allowed to resume services effective immediately.

Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino county officials say they are confident their areas will be able to meet the new criteria.

Meanwhile, Orange County has seen a recent spike in deaths, mostly in nursing homes. However, OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said the county has met guidelines to fully reopen Phase 2 businesses by this week or next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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