California Churches Can Gather Again, SCOTUS Says

California Churches Can Gather Again, SCOTUS Says

California Churches Can Gather Again, SCOTUS Says

In a win for religious liberty, the Supreme Court ruled late last night that the state of California cannot block churches from reopening in a limited capacity.

The ruling was 6-3, breaking down along the conservative wing and the liberal wing, with Chief Justice Roberts finding safety in numbers and joining with the majority. I honestly expect that this will be a pattern from now on out for the chief justice. Why? Because when it came to religious liberty and capacity arguments before the court just LAST JULY, Roberts punted and hid among the court’s liberals. Now that originalists are now in the majority on the Supreme Court, guess who wants to be in the majority crowd? Hello, Chief Justice Roberts, so glad that you finally showed up to interpret some law.

Now, the California edicts against churches were definitely more severe than the Nevada ones, but the principle remains the same. A secular institution should not get more leeway in reopening than a religious one. In Nevada, casinos were allowed to operate at 50% capacity, but churches could only have 50 people in attendance, no matter the square footage involved. In California, malls are open at with limits on capacity, but churches were banned from opening at all. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against California churches in December. So the churches appealed to the Supreme Court. The result was a lot different than the Nevada ruling.

The 6-3 ruling, issued just before 11 p.m., consisted of four separate statements by the justices outlining what relief each would have granted to the churches that had sued. Despite the splintered rulings, a majority of the court was willing to lift California’s ban on indoor services while remaining other, more specific restrictions in place.”

It is important to note how the change of just one justice on the court – replacing Ginsburg with Barrett – has changed the entire court’s complexion on this issue, which was signaled in their previous New York ruling.

The justices all came out with differing opinions on the case, but there is no denying the fact that on its face, this was blatant religious discrimination.

Justices Barrett and Kavanaugh wrote one concurring opinion, mostly regarding the singing element of in-person worship. However, Justices Gorsuch, Alito and Thomas wrote an opinion of their own, with some significant warnings.

Most notably, Justice Gorsuch says that things don’t feel very “temporary” any more. His full written opinion, starting on page 4 of the document, is worth reading.

No doubt, California will argue on remand, as it has before, that its prohibitions are merely temporary because vaccinations are underway. But the State’s “temporary” ban on indoor worship has been in place since August 2020, and applied routinely since March. California no longer asks its movie studios, malls, and manicurists to wait. And one could be forgiven for doubting its asserted timeline. Government actors have been moving the goalposts on pandemic-related sacrifices for months, adopting new benchmarks that always seem to put restoration of liberty just around the corner. As this crisis enters its second year— and hovers over a second Lent, a second Passover, and a second Ramadan—it is too late for the State to defend extreme measures with claims of temporary exigency, if it ever could. Drafting narrowly tailored regulations can be difficult. But if Hollywood may host a studio audience or film a singing competition while not a single soul may enter California’s churches, synagogues, and mosques, something has gone seriously awry.”

Justice Kagan wrote the dissenting opinion, and she was all about THE SCIENCE. Can she talk to school districts about THE SCIENCE while she’s at it?

What Justice Kagan, and her liberal colleagues fail to comprehend when they put up SCIENCE as a shield, is that this virus makes no distinctions between a mall, a studio audience, or a church congregation. If anything is open, then the virus can be anywhere. What makes churches so uniquely different in that regard? Answer: nothing. If people are uncomfortable with that concept, then they can choose not to attend in-person services, the same way that they can choose not to go to a mall.

I thought liberals were pro-choice? (Yes, this is sarcasm.)

California churches are looking to reopen as early as today and tomorrow, now that the Supreme Court has issued this injunction in their favor. We all assume the risk of our actions, and that includes going out to church, or staying at home indefinitely.

Let those who choose to do so, rejoice together with others and exercise religious liberty, that not even the state can take away.

Featured image: Ben Schumin/FlickR/Creative Commons/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)/Cropped

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  • Tully says:

    “Science” also says eugenics is nifty and can serve a state health purpose, no?

    I’m tired of my rights being subject to suspension just because someone shouts “Science!”

  • Bucky says:

    So SCOTUS says that gumint can dictate the manner of religious observance because “science”. Probably just what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they passed the First Amendment.

    Remember Ashli Babbitt

  • Cameron says:

    “I thought liberals were pro-choice?”

    Only on gender, abortion, marriage and sexuality. Everything else in their eyes can only be handled by a loving Government whose holy acolytes look out for us and stop us from making wrong choices.

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