Today I visited with two other people from the church I attend who live alone. Penny likes it when she can visit and play with other people. We were outdoors and practiced social distancing but did not wear masks.

Today, San Luis Obispo County reported one new case of COVID-19 , bringing the county’s total to 267 confirmed cases as of May 28. Three people remain hospitalized, including two patients who are in the ICU. Twenty-six people are recovering at home and 237 people have recovered. San Luis Obispo County has had one death attributed to COVID-19.

The health department reports that a total of 10,332 coronavirus tests have been conducted so far at both the public health lab and at private labs.

Two free coronavirus testing clinics are currently open in San Luis Obispo County — in Grover Beach and Paso Robles. Appointments are required. To make an appointment, visit https://lhi.care/covidtesting or call 1-888-634-1123.

The site in Paso Robles will be open until June 5. It will then move to a new location in the city of San Luis Obispo. The county will also hold two pop-up testing clinics next week. The first will be in Cambria on Monday and Tuesday, June 1-2, and the second will be in Los Osos on Wednesday and Thursday, June 3-4. For more information and to schedule an appointment, visit readyslo.org.

The 2020 California Mid-State Fair has been canceled due to COVID-19, which has led to restrictions on mass gatherings, according to the fair’s board. “The motion as presented as the 16 District Agriculture Association will have to cancel for the 2020 California Mid-State Fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state restrictions that prohibit this mass gathering.” That was the motion made Thursday morning, in which all board members unanimously voted yes to cancel the event. The announcement was made Thursday morning during a special full board meeting via teleconference.

The fair task force had a meeting Friday, May 22, with the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department and San Luis Obispo County Supervisor John Peschong to go over potential new guidelines if the eleven-day fair is able to take place.

During Thursday’s meeting, board officials discussed that San Luis Obispo County and state health officials say that without a vaccine and restrictions on group gatherings, the fair would not be possible.

“We did what we could, and I don’t know what else we can do,” one board member said during the meeting. A board member says that in terms of re-opening, the fair falls into Phase 4.

The financial committee had recommended that the board cancel the fair altogether, but board members wanted more time to discuss it, which is why Thursday’s emergency meeting was held.

Although the Mid-State Fair will not happen as planned, the focus remains on what can happen as California continues to re-open. One board member spoke about the potential to have local students showing 4-H animals and how that would look with restrictions in place.

“We are going to sell those animals,” the board member said.

The fair was set to take place July 22 to August 1 at the Paso Robles Event Center.

California skateboarders reclaimed a skate park that local officials had filled with sand to enforce the state’s stay-at-home order.

A famed skate park in Venice Beach, California, was filled with sand in April as part of a plan to keep people off the beach, but skaters showed up on Monday with buckets and cleared out the sand, according to TMZ.

Videos of residents removing the sand and reclaiming the park popped up on social media.

“Taking the Venice Skatepark back today,” an Instagram post from Shacked Magazine read. “The city let this skate park get destroyed, graffiti, garbage, broken glass everywhere……. Skaters want their park back. More clips in our Instagram Story.”

TMZ reported that police officers stood by and allowed the skaters to remove the sand.

In mid-April, Californians pushed back when local officials poured sand in a skate park in Orange County by turning it into a dirt bike track and removing some of the sand so that skaters could continue to use it.

Residents in California have protested Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions, and businesses have opened their doors in defiance of orders to remain closed, with cities declaring that they won’t obey the state’s orders.

California has slowly started reopening, with hair salons and barbershops being allowed to operate in some counties if they meet certain criteria, but Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently warned that life will “never be completely open” until a coronavirus vaccine is found.

Across the country, lawsuits have mounted as houses of worship fight back against restrictions limiting how many people can gather for services, as states try to protect residents from the coronavirus pandemic.

A common theme is the argument that while greater numbers of people are allowed at stores and other locations deemed essential, forbidding similar situations at churches, synagogues or mosques may violate the First Amendment.

“In Douglas County, Ore., Pastor [Robert] Miller may be jailed for going to church with 25 other people on a Sunday morning, but can join those same people and more at a dine-in restaurant for Sunday lunch with no penalty,” said a complaint filed in federal court Tuesday by two Oregon churches, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The lawsuit pushes back against Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order limiting in-person religious services to 25 people.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles Oregon cases, ruled Friday in favor of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban of in-person services.

On Monday, Newsom announced churches could reopen but they would be limited to 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is less, but only with the approval of local officials.

Nevertheless, the South Bay Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, Calif., is continuing with their lawsuit by asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.

The high court is also weighing an emergency request from Illinois churches claiming that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order limiting services to 10 people goes against Supreme Court precedent. Pritzker deemed religious services to be essential, but that strict cap is in place during the first phase of the state’s reopening.

Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and the Logos Baptist Ministries cited in their emergency filing the 1947 Supreme Court case “Everson v. Board of Education.” In that case, the court wrote that “Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church… Neither can force nor influence a person to go or remain away from a church against his will.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ order does not consider religious activities to be “necessary,” and thus they are not exempt from restrictions that cap all gatherings at 10 people. The High Plains Harvest Church sued Polis on Monday, arguing that it violates the First Amendment as well as the constitutional equal protection rights by allowing large numbers of people in stores but imposing penalties if people meet at a house of worship.

According to KUSA, the church’s pastor said in the lawsuit that the order goes against his “sincerely held religious belief that in-person attendance at church is central to his faith.”

A New Jersey rabbi joined a federal lawsuit filed by the leader of the St. Anthony of Padua Church that accused Gov. Phil Murphy’s order prohibiting religious gatherings of violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Murphy only allowed for certain exceptions to his ban of gatherings, and the religious leaders believe that the exclusion of congregations was unfair given that a number of businesses are permitted to operate.

“If you can have an unlimited number of people working in nonretail businesses as long as they try to socially distance and sanitize everything, why can’t you do that in the church?” the rabbi’s attorney told the Asbury Press. “What’s the difference? There is no difference.”

The Justice Department has sided with religious organizations in some cases, such as a lawsuit brought by a Virginia church after its pastor received a citation for having 16 people gather for a Palm Sunday service, exceeding Gov. Ralph Northam’s limit of 10.

In a court filing, the DOJ argued that Virginia “cannot treat religious gatherings less favorably than other similar, secular gatherings.”

President Trump has also supported congregations, declaring that states should consider religious services to be “essential” and thus exempt from the typical restrictions. The president warned last week that he would override governors who do not go along with this, although it is unclear what authority he would have to do this.

Governors defend their restrictions as protective measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Northam’s attorneys argued in a court filing that blocking his order “would seriously undermine” the state’s efforts to deter the spread of COVID-19.

Delaware Gov. John Carney defended restrictions he put in place, as well as guidance for reopening that includes social distancing, face masks and the recommendation that people older than 65 not participate.

“All of Delaware’s restrictions – including those inside our churches and other houses of worship – are intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Carney said according to WHYY. “I know it’s difficult. Practicing your faith is a fundamental right. But Delawareans who are at higher risk should not attend in-person services.” Meanwhile, a local pastor from Delaware filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month claiming that the restriction hurt small African American congregations like his that do not have the resources to cater to members with online services.

A Maine church lost a ruling in a lawsuit earlier this month as they fought against the state’s 10-person limit on gatherings, the Portland Press Herald reported. A federal judge in Maine noted that giving them the same allowances as an “essential business” would only allow them to have five additional people given the size of the space, and that the harm in not doing so was outweighed by the potential harm of lifting restrictions.

“The harm to the state that would come from an order requiring it to exempt religious institutions from gathering restrictions is profound,” U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen, an Obama appointee wrote. “If the prevalence of COVID-19 pulses up in a community, it puts lives, and particularly the lives of our most vulnerable citizens and the health care workers trying to save them, at risk. It also threatens the precarious steps we are making toward reopening.”

The emperor of the Godless Golden State has lowered his scepter and allowed churches to meet again this Sunday, albeit new decrees from the Caliphate of California impose some draconian restrictions.

Along with rules limiting worship gatherings to one-hundred people or less, Governor Newsom is also forbidding church attenders from hugging or shaking hands. Additionally, they are requiring “limited singing” and the wearing of masks.

Furthermore, churches can only worship together if county health departments give their permission, leaving the decision to 58 little dictators.

We kid you not. Welcome to California.

However, a silver lining is that Orange County rolled their eyes to the Governor’s orders and said those limitations were too restrictive. According to the Los Angles Times

Orange County supervisors on Tuesday declared religious services “essential” and expressed concerns that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen places of worship with major restrictions is too constraining for megachurches and other large institutions.

Unfortunately, the unanimously passed resolution is not binding.

By Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. 

The governors of all 50 states and the mayors of many large cities have assumed unto themselves the powers to restrict private personal choices and lawful public behavior in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

They have done so not by enforcing previously existing legislation but by crafting their own executive orders, styling those orders as if they were laws, using state and local police to enforce those so-called laws and – presumably when life returns to normal and the courts reopen – prosecuting the alleged offenders in court.

It is hard to believe that any judge in America would permit a criminal trial of any person for violating a standard of behavior that has not been enacted into law by a legislature.

We know this because under our system of representative government, separated powers and guaranteed liberties, only the legislative branch can craft laws and assign punishments for noncompliance. This is Constitutional Law 101.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has written that the executive branch cannot enforce a law that it has written. If it does, we will have approached tyranny.

Have we approached tyranny already?

During the past eight weeks, governors and mayors have closed most businesses, public venues, and houses of worship, prohibited public assembly and restricted travel – all of which they have unilaterally decreed to be nonessential.

In his terrifying novel “1984” – which posits a future of total control of all persons by the government and total control of the government by one political party – George Orwell argued that he who controls the meaning of words controls the laws as well.

That Orwellian truism has been manifested like never before here in America, where executive branch officeholders have used state and local police to restrain people from engaging in private and public behavior that they concede was lawful two months ago because today it is not deemed “essential.”

Frankly, I am surprised at the ferocity of police enforcement and the lameness of police compliance. The police have taken the same oaths to uphold the same Bill of Rights – it is not the Bill of Safety; it’s the Bill of Rights – as have all other officeholders. The police also know that it is unlawful for them to obey an unlawful order, particularly when they use force.

The lockdown orders are all unlawful because none of them – none – has been enacted by a legislature, and all of them – all – interfere with fundamental liberties, each of which is guaranteed – guaranteed – by the Constitution.

The government in America – state or federal – has no power and no right to determine what goods, services and venues are essential.

Please do not misunderstand me. I recognize the scientific value of personal efforts to control contagion. But under the Constitution, these social-distancing, wear-your-mask, shut-your-business, stay-at-home edicts constitute mere recommendations that should induce rational voluntary compliance, because the government in America is without lawful power to compel compliance.

The governors complain about resistance. They need to know that Americans will resist efforts to interfere in behavior that remains as moral, natural, lawful and constitutional as it was 60 days ago.

Last week, President Trump, sounding fed up with gubernatorial lockdown orders, declared that religious worship is essential – meaning, in his opinion, all houses of worship should be opened – and he offered that he was prepared to “override” any governors who disagreed with him.

When he realized that he lacked any authority to override even unlawful gubernatorial decrees, he dispatched the Department of Justice to begin filing challenges to governors in federal courts and to argue that constitutional freedoms are being impaired by the states.

I applaud this, but it is too little, too late. Where was the Justice Department when Catholic priests were threatened with arrest for saying Mass or distributing palms, and when rabbis were put in COVID-19-infested jails for holding funerals? At all these religious events, folks freely chose to exercise their freedom to worship; and to take their chances.

These Justice Department interventions provoked the question: Who should decide what goods, services or venues are essential – the states or the federal government? The question is Orwellian, as the answer is: neither of them.

The government in America – state or federal – has no power and no right to determine what goods, services and venues are essential.

Those determinations have been for individuals to make since 1776, and those individual choices have been constitutionally protected from the feds since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 and from the states since the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868.

What is essential to the laborer or student or housewife may not be essential to the former Goldman Sachs partner who was elected governor of New Jersey, and who decreed last week, “It shall be the duty of every person or entity in this State … to cooperate fully” with his orders; or essential to the ideologue who is mayor of the Big Apple and who, for all his professed liberality, threatened to close permanently – permanently – businesses and houses of worship that flaunt his guidelines.

A duty is undertaken voluntarily or by nature, not by executive command, Gov. Murphy. And the government cannot take property away from its owners except for a legitimate public use and only for just compensation, Mayor de Blasio.

Governors and mayors can make all the dictatorial pronouncements and threats that they wish. But they cannot use public assets to enforce them. And when they seek to use force, those from whom they seek it should decline the offer.

In America, we decide for ourselves what produces happiness. We have never delegated to the government – ever – the power to make personal choices for us.

And some of us are willing to take chances and even do “nonessential” things. The essence of the freedoms for which we have fought since 1776 is the liberty to be ourselves.

While much of El Choro Park is now open to the public, the campsites remain closed and unused.

A close up of a dry grass field

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A view from near where Fred, Shelley and I meet.

A path with trees on the side of a hill

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Copywrite MPFitch

Published by mpfitch

I am a retired disabled veteran and am actively involved with a Baptist Church on the Central Coast of CA. I am a photographer who likes to shoot portraits and scenic photographs.

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