Late Friday the supreme court lifted some restrictions placed on church gatherings in California. In two cases where churches had sued over COVID-19 restrictions the court said California can’t ban indoor worship.
The justices did allow regulation. Churches in California can only operate at 25% capacity and may not engage in chanting or singing.
The court declined to stop the ban on indoor chanting and singing that was put in place last summer.
South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista and Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry, requested emergency action by the Supreme court.
In addition to Roberts, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Amy Coney Barrett also wrote to explain their views. Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas would have kept California from enforcing its singing ban. Barrett, the court’s newest justice, disagreed. Writing for herself and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, she said it wasn’t clear at this point whether the singing ban was being applied “across the board.”
She wrote that “if a chorister can sing in a Hollywood studio but not in her church, California’s regulations cannot be viewed as neutral,” triggering a stricter review by courts. The justices said the churches who sued can submit new evidence to a lower court that the singing ban is not being applied generally.
The court’s three liberal justices dissented, saying they would have upheld California’s restrictions. Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent for herself, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor that the court’s action “risks worsening the pandemic.” She said that the court was “making a special exception for worship services” rather than treating them like other activities where large groups of people come together “in close proximity for extended periods of time.” In areas of California where COVID-19 is widespread, which includes most of the state, activities including indoor dining and going to the movies are banned.
Supreme Court Orderhttps://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/20a136_bq7c.pdf
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