The Supreme Court has ordered California on Friday to allow indoor church services despite restrictions in counties with widespread COVID-19 cases.
The South Bay Pentecostal Church in San Diego had filed an emergency request calling on the Supreme Court to block enforcement of the prohibition on indoor worship services in the “purple tier” counties (7 COVID cases per 100,000 people).
“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 Roberts wrote.
However, 6-3 majority ruling denied the churches’ request to block the state’s 25% capacity limit on indoor worship service during the pandemic, including the prohibition of singing and chanting during indoor services.
The three dissenting liberal justices argued that public health precautions trump the First Amendment right to exercise their religious freedom.
“Justices of this court are not scientists. Nor do we know much about public health policy. Yet today the court displaces the judgments of experts about how to respond to a raging pandemic,” Justices Elena Kagan, wrote in the dissent with Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
California is the latest liberal state to be rebuked by the high court.
In November, the Supreme Court ruled that New York was far too restrictive in its COVID measures pertaining to houses of worship.
The majority said that the regulations are “far more restrictive than any Covid-related regulations that have previously come before the court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus.”
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