Saturday, May 30, 2020

U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Act on Challenge to California Limits on Religious Gatherings

U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Act on Challenge to California

Limits on Religious Gatherings

Last evening, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-4, declined to reverse a prior decision upholding the Covid-19 pandemic related limits on religious gatherings adopted in California. 

Initially, the suit was filed objecting to the classification of religious gatherings as “Class 3,” a grouping that included bars, hair salons and movie theaters, rather than Class 2, which includes non-essential curb-side retail, dine-in restaurants and certain factories.  The church sought an injunction against the state government enforcing the classification as to churches in Class 3 and directing that they be treated as Class 2. The trial court denied the requested relief, and the church appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In a 2-1 decision the denial of the requested relief was affirmed; HERE IS A LINK to that decision.  It was from this determination that an appeal was made to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last evening the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the decisions below.  Notably, Chief Justice Roberts joined the four “liberal” justices in denying relief.  Explaining why he joined in the decision to not grant the injunction sought, he wrote that:

Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time.  And the Order exempts or treats more leniently only dissimilar activities, such as operating grocery stores, banks, and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods.  

 HERE IS A LINK to his concurring opinion. 


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