Department of Justice to Mayor Breed: Open San Francisco's churches

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announces the first two coronavirus cases in the city. March 5, 2020

The Department of Justice sent a three page letter to San Francisco Mayor London Breed Friday, strongly suggesting San Francisco's treatment of the First Amendment "raises serious concerns."

The letter mentions that Breed, as Mayor, has the authority to temporarily restrict gatherings due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

However, the assistant attorney general Eric S. Dreiband and United States attorney David Anderson of the Northern District of California say they are reviewing their options "and may take further action, as and if appropriate, to protect the relgious libery rights of the people of San Francisco."

Just last weekend, a large protest was held in San Francisco, organized by the San Francisco Archdiocese. 

The DOJ says the current health order doesn't treat places of worship fairly in comparison to other sectors of society, such as gyms, fitness centers, barber shops, nail salons, and tattoo parlors. 

The current health order allows only one person to enter a house of worship at a time. The DOJ cites that some of the City's most spacious buildings can hold up to 2,400 worshipers, but currently aren't allowed to utilize the majority of their space.

KTVU has reached out to Mayor London Breed for comment.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera responsed by touting San Francisco's low death rate from COVID-19 as far as major cities are concerned. "We must be doing something right. Meanwhile, more than 200,000 Americans are dead from this virus. Maybe the federal government should focus on an actual pandemic response instead of lobbing careless legal threats. San Francisco is opening up at the speed of safety. Religious gatherings indoors and outdoors are already set to expand in a few days. This expansion is beyond what is described in the federal government’s letter. It's consistent with San Francisco’s careful approach and follows closely behind what the State of California allows."

San Francisco has tallied 11,038 COVID-19 cases, and 99 deaths from the disease as of Friday afternoon.