Coronavirus-related restrictions that include limiting home-based religious worship, Bible studies, and prayer meetings cannot be enforced by California according to the Supreme Court.

On late Friday, the order from the court is the latest in a recent string of cases in which the high court has barred officials from enforcing some coronavirus-related restrictions applying to religious gatherings.

California restrictions that apply to in-home religious gatherings should be lifted for now has agreed by the five conservative justices, while the court’s three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts would not have done so.

The state announced significant changes loosening restrictions on gatherings that go into effect on April 15. The changes come after infection rates have gone down in the state.

The case before the justices involved California rules that in most of the state limit indoor social gatherings to no more than three households.

Attendees are required to wear masks and physically distant from one another. Different restrictions apply to places including schools, grocery stores, and churches.
“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise,” allowing hair salons, retail stores, and movie theaters, among other places, “to bring together more than three households at a time,” the unsigned order from the court said. A lower court “did not conclude that those activities pose a lesser risk of transmission than applicants’ proposed religious exercise at home,” it said.

The court acknowledged that California’s policy on gatherings will change next week but said the restrictions remain in place until then and that “officials with a track record of ‘moving the goalposts’ retain authority to reinstate those heightened restrictions at any time.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote in dissent for herself and her liberal colleagues, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that the court’s majority was hurting state officials’ ability to address a public health emergency.

“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on-at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike. California need not … treat at-home religious gatherings the same as hardware stores and hair salons,” she wrote. She added that “the law does not require that the State equally treat apples and watermelons.”

Harmeet K. Dhillion, the Republican lawyer who won the case, took to Twitter to celebrate.

This case is her third win against California Governor Newsom this year at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court allowed in-person worship to resume in California in early February. Although it was only at 25% capacity.

California’s handling of the pandemic has been a disaster.

The state Governor Gavin Newsom tyrannically restricted what California residents could and couldn’t do while not following his own rules.


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