Roberts Blows Ruling On Church Capacity
Roberts Blows Ruling On Church Capacity
With rulings like these from Chief Justice John Roberts, one has to wonder exactly what a Justice Harriet Miers would have been like.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in a yet another split decision on a COVID-19 related restriction on religious gatherings in the state of Nevada. At the heart of the issue was the 50 person cap on religious services, while casinos and other entertainment venues were able to operate at 50% capacity. The state obviously wants the revenue in a bad way thanks to all the shutdowns, but this is obvious discrimination and a trampling of religious liberty.
Well, not so obvious when it comes to Chief Justice Roberts. Given the chance to stand up for religious liberty, and for putting some kind of restraint on the government’s ability to infringe on rights during a pandemic (apparently religious freedom rulings must be pandemic-free), Roberts took a pass.
The decision was a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal wing.”
The court’s order was unsigned and did not provide any reasoning, common practice when the high court acts on emergency applications. The court’s conservative justices filed three dissents.”
The decision comes in response to a suit from Calvary chapel Dayton Valley arguing that it was being treated unfairly compared to casinos, restaurants and amusement parks. Churches in the state have a firm 50-person limit, while other businesses have been told to cut their availability to half of their fire-code capacities.”
“The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in dissent. “It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance. But the Governor of Nevada apparently has different priorities.”
“That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing,” he added. “We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility.”
Each of the dissents are worth reading – Alito, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch each wrote one – but Gorsuch’s dissent is only one paragraph long. And yet it really says everything that needs to be said.
Gorsuch dissent is one paragraph long and it's a dandy pic.twitter.com/eF3sWxOKyL
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) July 25, 2020
Senator Ted Cruz was more blunt when it came to his opinion of Chief Justice Roberts in this case.
John Roberts has abandoned his oath.
But, on the upside, maybe Nevada churches should set up craps tables? Then they could open? https://t.co/6pWoOwg9ts
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 25, 2020
Also pointing out the terrible precedent being set was Senator Tom Cotton.
John Roberts is letting the state treat churches much harsher than big casinos.
What happened to being an objective umpire calling balls & strikes?
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) July 25, 2020
Nevada clearly has a double standard when it comes to the entertainment industry (where the state can make most of its tax revenue between sales taxes and gaming taxes) and religious exercise. It would be one thing if the casinos could only have 50 people inside at a time. But to declare one arbitrary limit on religious services, while allowing for half capacity for entertainment, is just blatant favoritism. Calvary Chapel turned to the courts to be their defender of religious liberty, and their backstop against a capricious state government. John Roberts looked at this case, looked at how his colleagues were lining up, and took the coward’s way out. He didn’t even have to bother explaining his reasons, which makes it almost worse. It’s one thing to see bad reasoning. It’s worse to have the ruling handed down from on high with no comment.
Thanks for proving to be a disappointment yet again, Chief Justice.