Posted Thu on Dec 3rd 2020 12:53 pm by Amy Howe
Last week, the Supreme Court of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two Orthodox Jewish synagogues filed motions to lift restrictions on attending coronavirus-related services in New York. The broader ramifications of that ruling became even more apparent Thursday morning when judges ordered a federal district court to re-examine a Southern California church’s challenge to that state’s restrictions on indoor worship.
The lawsuit was filed this summer by Harvest Rock Church, a multi-site Christian church in California. The Church contends that the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the California government on Gavin Newsom (D), which prohibits or limits their right to personal worship based on the number of cases in the county the House of Worship is located in violate his religion freely. The Church argues that it is treated less favorably than businesses like grocery stores, malls, file sharing networks, and card rooms, which can stay open with less stringent attendance restrictions – or, in the case of substantial retail, in the least restrictive areas of the state with no attendance restrictions at all. Indeed, the Church says, it can do its community work in its buildings. In addition, the Church said Newsom “openly sponsored” the Black Lives Matter protests, which involved tens of thousands of people, in May and June.
Stressing that COVID-19 cases in California are “spikey” and that indoor activity is particularly risky for the virus to spread, the state acknowledges that the Church “has a strong interest in the location and the nature of the location and manner of their choice ”. It is emphasized, however, that this case differs from the New York Challenges in that California “applies the same restrictions to indoor worship as it does to similar secular activities in which large groups gather in close proximity for long periods of time indoors.” For example, in its most restrictive zones, the state prohibits gatherings in cinemas, restaurants, museums and other large spaces, as well as church services. The state suggested that before the Supreme Court decides on the Church’s motion, the Supreme Court “immediately evaluate” the Church’s arguments in light of last week’s decision in the New York case and the current factual and legal circumstances in California . ”
This is exactly what the judges did on Thursday morning with a short two-sentence order. There was no public disagreement against the verdict. The judges have two other requests pending for exemption from COVID restrictions, including places of worship in New Jersey and a Christian school in Kentucky.
This post was originally published on Howe on the Court.
Amy Howe, justices urge lower court to take another look at California’s COVID-19 restrictions on indoor worship.
SCOTUSblog (December 3, 2020, 12:53 pm), https://www.scotusblog.com/2020/12/justices-tell-lower-court-to-take-another-look-at-california-covid-19 – Restrictions-on-indoor-worship /