U.S. Supreme Court lifts ban on indoor religious services in California – Deadline

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that orders from California Governor Gavin Newsom banning indoor religious services may violate the Constitution’s protections on religion. The order effectively lifts the state’s ban on indoor religious gatherings.

In a 6-3 decision, judges granted an appeal Friday night from a church in southern San Diego challenging the restrictions. The ruling overturned rulings by federal judges in San Diego and San Bernardino and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. All of these courts upheld state orders.

“While granting the right to assemble for worship, the Supreme Court said limiting attendance to 25% of the building’s capacity was acceptable, and that further restrictions on singing and singing – a point of contention with the church of San Diego – could also be downsized.

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The Becket Fund for Religious Freedom said California is “the only state to ban indoor worship” in all counties except sparsely populated.

“Since the arrival of COVID-19, California has openly imposed stricter regulations on religious institutions than on many businesses.” wrote Judge Neil M. Gorsuch in one of three concurring opinions. “California is concerned that worship brings people together for too long. Yet California does not restrict its citizens to entering and leaving other establishments; no one is prevented from lingering in shopping malls, trade fairs or bus stations. “

Gorsuch joined Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. in voting to lift all restrictions, including attendance and singing limits.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett was not convinced of the limits of singing. Barrett said churches have a burden “to establish their right to an exemption from the singing ban.” In my opinion, they did not shoulder that burden – at least not on this file, ”she wrote. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh agreed with her.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote on Friday that he could not accept “California’s current determination that the maximum number of adherents who can worship safely in the most cavernous cathedral is zero … . Deference, while broad, has its limits.

The three liberals in court, Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, were dissenting.

“The judges of this tribunal are not scientists. We don’t know much about public health policy either. Yet today the court is shifting expert judgments on how to respond to a raging pandemic, ”Kagan wrote. “Court orders California to weaken restrictions on public gatherings by making a special exception for worship services.”

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