Justice Department Calls on San Francisco Mayor to End “One Congregant” Rule for Places of Worship to Comply with the Constitution

The Justice Department on Friday sent a letter to San Francisco mayor explaining that the city’s policy of only allowing a single worshiper in places of worship regardless of their size, while allowing multiple patrons in other indoor settings including gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and daycare’s, is contrary to the Constitution and the nation’s best tradition of religious freedom.


The Justice Department on Friday sent a letter to San Francisco mayor explaining that the city’s policy of only allowing a single worshiper in places of worship regardless of their size, while allowing multiple patrons in other indoor settings including gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and daycare’s, is contrary to the Constitution and the nation’s best tradition of religious freedom.

The letter, sent by Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, David Anderson, explains that San Francisco’s policy of treating secular businesses more favorably than houses of worship is “wholly at odds with this nation’s traditional understanding of religious liberty, and may violate the First Amendment,” and calls on the mayor to take action to treat places of worship equally with other venues where people share enclosed spaces.

“No government in this free country can attack religion by transforming a house of worship arbitrarily into a place for solitary confinement. People of faith go to churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places to worship with their fellow believers, and they can do so lawfully because the First Amendment to the United States Constitution makes illegal any effort by government to prohibit the free exercise of religion,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “That we are dealing with a very serious public health crisis does not permit government to discriminate against religious worshipers by imposing a one-person-per-house-of-worship rule while permitting larger numbers of people to gather in tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and other places. There is no pandemic exception to the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights.” 

While continuing to enforce the one-congregant rule, San Francisco allows patrons at gyms, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, and massage studios so long as 6-foot distancing is followed. Gyms are allowed to open at 10 percent of capacity, daycares to operate with 10 to 12 children per class, and retail establishments generally can operate at 50 percent of capacity. 

The letter calls on the city to immediately equalize its treatment of places of worship to comply with the First Amendment.

On April 27, 2020, Attorney General William P. Barr directed Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Eric Dreiband, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Matthew Schneider, to review state and local policies to ensure that civil liberties are protected during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (September 2020)  Justice Department Calls on San Francisco Mayor to End “One Congregant” Rule for Places of Worship to Comply with the Constitution

Justice Department Seeks to End Illegal Online Sale of Industrial Bleach Marketed as “Miracle” Treatment for COVID-19


Court Orders Defendants to Stop Operating Website Selling Unlawful Bleach Product for Coronavirus Treatment

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida has entered a temporary injunction halting the sale of an unapproved, unproven, and potentially dangerous coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment product, the Department of Justice announced today.

In a civil complaint and accompanying court papers filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida today, the Department of Justice alleges that the defendants, Genesis II Church of Health and Healing (Genesis) and its principals, Mark Grenon, Joseph Grenon, Jordan Grenon, and Jonathan Grenon sell and distribute a product called Miracle Mineral Solution, also referred to as MMS. 

Genesis sells MMS through its websites claiming that it will cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent Coronavirus, which includes COVID-19, as well as other diseases including Alzheimer’s, autism, brain cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis, among others. 

MMS is a chemical product which, when combined with the included activator, creates a powerful bleach product that the defendants market for oral ingestion. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously issued public warnings to consumers that MMS can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.  The Justice Department sought preliminary relief from the court.

“The Department of Justice will take swift action to protect consumers from illegal and potentially harmful products being offered to treat COVID-19,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt.  “We will continue to work closely alongside our partners at the Food and Drug Administration to quickly shut down those selling illegal products during this pandemic.”

“We will zealously pursue perpetrators of fraud schemes seeking to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida.  “Not only are these products potentially harmful, but their distribution and use may prevent those who are sick from receiving the legitimate healthcare they need.”

The complaint alleges that defendants’ disease-related treatment claims are unsupported by any well-controlled clinical studies or other credible scientific substantiation.  Additionally, the complaint asserts that MMS’s labeling is false and misleading and that since defendants make disease-related treatment claims about MMS in the absence of any clinical data, the products are misbranded. 

On April 8, 2020, FDA, jointly with the Federal Trade Commission, issued a Warning Letter to Defendants notifying them that they are violating federal law (both the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act as well as the Federal Trade Commission Act) by, among other things, distributing unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs in interstate commerce. 

Despite this warning, the complaint alleges, the defendants not only continue to sell MMS with claims that it cures, mitigates, treats, or prevents Coronavirus, which includes COVID-19, but they have also expressly stated that they will not take corrective action.

“Americans expect and deserve proven medical treatments and today’s action is a forceful reminder that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will use its legal authorities to quickly stop those who have proven to continuously threaten the health of the American public.  It is vital that sellers of drug products comply with the FD&C Act and do not sell products with false and misleading claims, especially to treat COVID-19 and other debilitating diseases, such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D.  

“Despite a previous warning, the Genesis II Church of Healing has continued to actively place consumers at risk by peddling potentially dangerous and unapproved chlorine dioxide products.  We will not stand for this, and the FDA remains fully committed to taking strong enforcement action against any sellers who place unsuspecting American consumers at risk by offering their unproven products to treat serious diseases.”

FDA’s previous warning to consumers about the dangers of MMS can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/danger-dont-drink-miracle-mineral-solution-or-similar-products.

The enforcement action filed today is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Ross S. Goldstein and David A. Frank of the Department of Justice, Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Feeley of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, with assistance from Associate Chief Counsel for Enforcement Joshua Davenport of the FDA, Office of General Counsel, Department of Health and Human Services.

The claims made in the complaint are allegations that, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government must prove to receive a permanent injunction against the defendants.

Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.  

For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, visit its website at www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl.  

For information about the Department of Justice’s efforts to stop illegal COVID-19-related activity, visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, consumers may visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO websites.

The public is urged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

Justice.gov (April 2020) Justice Department Seeks to End Illegal Online Sale of Industrial Bleach Marketed as “Miracle” Treatment for COVID-19

Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Georgia Tax Return Preparer

The United States government filed a civil injunction suit seeking to bar Wesley Adam Kroll from owning or operating a tax return preparation business and preparing tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. The complaint also seeks an order that Kroll disgorge ill-gotten return preparation fees that he obtained through his alleged misconduct.


The United States government filed a civil injunction suit seeking to bar Wesley Adam Kroll from owning or operating a tax return preparation business and preparing tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. The complaint also seeks an order that Kroll disgorge ill-gotten return preparation fees that he obtained through his alleged misconduct.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, alleges that Kroll has operated three tax return preparation stores in Albany and Moultrie, Georgia, under the names United Tax Service, American Tax Service, American Tax, and Tax South. 

The government alleges that Kroll prepared tax returns claiming fabricated businesses and business-related profits or losses, and various false tax deductions and credits, including education, childcare, and earned income tax credits. The complaint estimates the lost tax revenue from federal tax returns prepared by Kroll and his employees exceeds $1.9 million.

According to the complaint, the IRS took multiple steps to correct Kroll’s unlawful behavior, including conducting in-person educational visits with Kroll in 2012, 2014, and 2015; issuing him warning letters in 2013 and 2016; and assessing him with $182,500 in tax return preparer penalties. But, the government alleges, these efforts have failed to curb Kroll’s unlawful behavior.

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“The Justice Department is committed to working with the IRS to bring enforcement actions against unscrupulous return preparers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Zuckerman. “This civil action is further evidence that the IRS and the Tax Division will use all available tools to hold dishonest return preparers accountable and protect the U.S. Treasury from damage.”

Return preparer fraud is one of the IRS’ Dirty Dozen Tax Scams and taxpayers seeking a return preparer should remain vigilant. The IRS has information on its website for choosing a tax preparer and has launched a free directory of federal tax preparers.

In the past decade, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against hundreds of unscrupulous tax preparers. Information about these cases is available on the Justice Department website. An alphabetical listing of persons enjoined from preparing returns and promoting tax schemes can be found on this page.

If you believe that one of the enjoined persons or businesses may be violating an injunction, please contact the Tax Division with details.

Justice.gov (February, 2020) Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Georgia Tax Return Preparer

Justice Department Secures Denaturalization of Convicted Terrorist Who Sought to Help al Qaeda Destroy the Brooklyn Bridge

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois entered an order revoking the naturalized U.S. citizenship of convicted terrorist, Iyman Faris. Faris, a native of Pakistan, was convicted in 2003 of providing material support


Court Denaturalizes Iyman Faris Based on His Provision of Material Support to al Qaeda in Early 2000s, Which Included a Personal Meeting with Usama bin Laden at Terrorist Training Camp Months After Taking Oath of Allegiance to the United States

On Feb. 3, Judge Staci M. Yandle of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois entered an order revoking the naturalized U.S. citizenship of convicted terrorist, Iyman Faris. Faris, a native of Pakistan, was convicted in 2003 of providing material support to al Qaeda and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Among other actions in support of al Qaeda, in 2002, Faris evaluated the practicality of a plot to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge in New York using gas cutters, communicating his assessment to al Qaeda via coded messages. In its order revoking his U.S. citizenship, the court found that Faris was ineligible for naturalization and unlawfully procured his citizenship through willful misrepresentation of material facts.

“A top priority at the Department of Justice is protecting our national security, and one of the things we do in support of that goal is tirelessly pursue denaturalization of known and suspected terrorists,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “What Faris did is unconscionable – he pretended to support the United States and the Constitution to naturalize while he actively supported Usama bin Laden and senior al Qaeda leadership in their plans to attack the United States. The denaturalization of Faris and of others who similarly defraud the United States helps defend the integrity of the immigration system, promote the rule of law, and make America safer.”

“Iyman Faris is a traitor to the oath he took renouncing foreign allegiances and pledging to defend the Constitution and our American way of life. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing who took advantage of American generosity with plans to terrorize and murder. He does not deserve the honor of being an American citizen,” said U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft for the Southern District of Illinois. “Becoming a naturalized citizen is a privilege. The process must be guarded for the safety of our nation and to protect and recognize the sacrifices, determination, and honor of those who earn that privilege honestly.”

Faris, 50, was convicted in 2003 in the Eastern District of Virginia of providing, and conspiring to provide, material support to al Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Among other actions underlying that conviction, in 2000, Faris traveled to Afghanistan where he met Usama bin Laden and other high-ranking members of al Qaeda at an al Qaeda training camp, researched information about ultralight airplanes for a senior al Qaeda leader, and arranged for airline tickets to be issued to al Qaeda operatives.

In its Feb. 3 order, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois granted the government’s motion for summary judgment revoking Faris’s U.S. citizenship on multiple bases.

The court found that Faris’s admitted affiliation with al Qaeda within five years after naturalizing established that he was not attached to the principles of the Constitution and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States at the time he naturalized in 1999.

The court also found that Faris was ineligible for naturalization based on his lies to immigration officers while under oath and his fraudulent entry into the United States in 1994 by using another person’s passport and visa.

Faris is currently serving his criminal sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, with a projected release date in August 2020. Because of the Court’s order, Faris is no longer a U.S. citizen and may be subjected to removal proceedings.

This case was investigated by the Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation, District Court Section (OIL-DCS) National Security and Affirmative Litigation Unit (NS/A Unit), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with consultation and support from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The case was jointly prosecuted by Chief Tim Belsan and Counsel for National Security John Inkeles and Ed White (ret.) of OIL-DCS’s NS/A Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Biersbach of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois.

Justice.gov (February, 2020) Justice Department Secures Denaturalization of Convicted Terrorist Who Sought to Help al Qaeda Destroy the Brooklyn Bridge

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