Hallelujah. A rare moment of sanity in these troubled times! In a 5/4 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts joining the
liberal sane justices, the Court has determined that a California church is not being victimized by the State’s lockdown orders to combat coronavirus. The Pentecostal church had brought suit claiming the State’s lockdown orders violated religious freedom.
From the New York Times,
“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.
“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,” the chief justice wrote. “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.”
The church had claimed that it was being treated worse than many businesses, but as Roberts asserted, religious institutions are being limited in the same way as concerts, movies, lectures and other secular events that put people in similar proximity, numbers and for a similar length of time.
“The church and its congregants simply want to be treated equally to comparable secular businesses,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. “California already trusts its residents and any number of businesses to adhere to proper social distancing and hygiene practices.”
“The state cannot,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote, quoting from an appeals court decision in a different case, “‘assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work or go about the rest of their daily lives in permitted social settings.’”
Wow. The Church Is Being Victimized, come on man. This has nothing to do with anybody thinking “the worst” about folks going to church and “the best” when people go to work etc. The whining!
Anyway, I’m glad the Court has seen through the victimhood. This is the first test of Church v State in the coronavirus pandemic and fortunately, SCOTUS exhibited common sense.