Statement Regarding Ninth Circuit Decision on Indoor Gatherings

February 13, 2021

Statement Regarding Ninth Circuit Decision on Indoor Gatherings

Yesterday evening, the U.S. Court of Appeals f​​or the Ninth Circuit​ decided that the County of Santa Clara can continue to prohibit all indoor gatherings and denied a request from several churches to allow indoor worship services in Santa Clara County. 

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision affirms that the County’s health orders are neutral, across-the-board rules focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19,” said James R. Williams, County Counsel.  “Many in our community are eager to gather indoors together, including for indoor worship, but it is vitally important that we continue to keep our community safe and do everything we can bring the pandemic under control.  We are grateful for the continued leadership of our faith community in the COVID-19 response.  The vast majority of our faith community have been gathering outdoors or online so that they can worship safely and protect the broader community from serious illness and death.  And our faith community continues to partner with the County to support vaccination, testing, and other critical efforts to get all of us through to the other side of this pandemic.” 

The Ninth Circuit’s decision specifically noted that the County’s framework “does not ‘single out houses of worship’ for worse treatment than secular activities. Nor does the Directive affect whether [churches] may continue to remain open for purposes that do not involve ‘gatherings’.” 

COVID-19 continues to pose a serious risk in our community, especially with the U.K. and South African variants now present in our region.  Public health officials have consistently concluded that indoor gatherings are among the riskiest activities and create potential super-spreader events.  At this time, the County’s current public health directives continue to prohibit indoor gatherings of any kind.

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