An Indian American attorney and Republican firebrand is suing the state of California and Gov. Gavin Newsom for banning gatherings of all sizes, as part of his March 19 stay-at-home orders. Harmeet Dillon, who has filed the lawsuit on behalf of three Southern California pastors, says the bans are unconstitutional restrictions on religion.
The lawsuit, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, alleges that Newsom, the state and local officials have engaged “in a gross abuse of their power, have seized the coronavirus pandemic to expand their authority by unprecedented lengths, depriving … residents of California of fundamental rights.”
Dhillon is the former vice chair of the state Republican Party and a current national GOP committeewoman. A hyperpartisan Republican and frequent guest on Fox News opinion shows, Dhillon is the vice president of the Republican National Lawyers Association. Last year, the San Francisco-based lawyer and Sikh activist was named a co-chair of the newly-formed “Women for Trump Coalition,” in Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign.
After filing the lawsuit on April 17, Dhillon told the San Francisco Chronicle that she is infuriated that businesses such as marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores and fast-food restaurants are allowed to stay open as essential activities, while churches are closed. We’re not asking that there be no restrictions, but that those restrictions be no greater than the least restrictive possible,” she told the paper.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle report, Dillon said the churches she represents are willing to keep the social distancing standards during their services and require people to wear masks. The chance to practice their faith “is more important to many people than other things the government thinks are important,” she said.
A few days later, Dhillon’s company, The Dhillon Law Group, also filed an emergency petition on behalf of the Center for American Liberty to block Newsom from using state funds to help undocumented immigrants impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Dhillon is the CEO of the nonprofit conservative legal group.
Newsom had announced the fund on April 15, which he said would be supplemented with $50 million in private donations, and would help provide one-time $500 grants to about 150,000 unauthorized workers who are not eligible for unemployment insurance or federal stimulus checks.