RELIGIOUS FREEDOM UPDATE: SCOTUS Rules On California Church Closures — Here’s The 411

Written by Wes Walker on February 7, 2021

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One of the recurring flashpoints as America dealt with Xi’s viral gift to the planet is the conflict between safety and freedom… particularly religious freedom.

Our ‘betters’ in government have deemed many aspects of our life and culture ‘essential’. Things that will not be shut down no matter how bad the virus might one day become. Religious worship is seldom on their shortlist of ‘essential services’… no matter how big a difference they might make in terms of spiritual or mental well-being.

Clampdowns being what they are, courts in California and New York have been busy places for religious communities fighting for their Constitutional right to meet in prayer.

SCOTUS has now heard a case on this topic, with a mixed result. One that leans toward the positive, from the religious freedom perspective.

A “Respondents are enjoined from enforcing the Blueprint’s Tier 1 prohibition on indoor worship services against the applicants pending disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari,” the court ruled. “The application is denied with respect to the percentage capacity limitations, and respondents are not enjoined from imposing a 25% capacity limitation on indoor worship services in Tier 1. The application is denied with respect to the prohibition on singing and chanting during indoor services.”divided Supreme Court late Friday night blocked California from imposing an outright ban on indoor church services during the pandemic, but the justices kept in place for the time being capacity limits and a ban on singing and chanting.

In a decision with four separate interpretations, a majority of conservative justices ruled that while the court normally defers to elected officials on public health that Gov. Gavin’s Newsom’s outright ban on church gatherings defied the Constitution.

…“The State’s present determination—that the maximum number of adherents who can safely worship in the most cavernous cathedral is zero—appears to reflect not expertise or discretion, but instead insufficient appreciation or consideration of the interests at stake,” Chief Justice John Robert wrote in his partially concurring statement.

…The justices said the churches could come back to the court if they could demonstrate “the State is not applying the percentage capacity limitations or the prohibition on singing and chanting in a generally applicable manner.” — JustTheNews

What does all that mean in plain English?

Simple.

SCOTUS has affirmed that the State has a right to limit attendance in response to safety concerns, and to limit activities believed to spread the virus, like public singing and chanting.

But it does not have a right to set the maximum attendance at zero percent, and does not have the right to impose restrictions on Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, or temples that would treat them differently than equivalent behavior in a non-religious environment.

Churches, etc are to remain open, even if at diminished capacity. And the scientific rationale for limitations on singing was considered inconclusive and could return to the courts if further relevant evidence demonstrating unequal treatment of similar behavior can be presented.

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