SCOTUS sends California coronavirus church restrictions case back to lower court

The nation’s highest court dealt a legal loss to noted Trump opponent and California’s Democrat governor, Gavin Newsom, on Thursday, CBS News reported.

The ruling by the Supreme Court came from a case brought by two churches, Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministries, against the California governor’s coronavirus-related restrictions.

The churches specifically took issue with rules that banned indoor worship services in counties that the state designates as being “Tier 1” due to levels of COVID infection at or exceeding 8%. Most of California currently falls within that designation.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court tossed out an order from the federal court in the Central District of California and ordered that the case be revisited.

Violates First Amendment

In its order, the Supreme Court cited a recently decided case regarding similar regulations imposed by New York state that were ruled to be in violation of the First Amendment.

In his concurring opinion on the New York case, Justice Neil Gorsuch pointed out the inconsistency of allowing certain businesses to function while shutting down houses of worship.

“It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques,” Gorsuch wrote, as Fox News reported.

“So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians,” the justice added. “Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?”

This was the first case that recent Trump-appointee Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast a vote. She sided with the rest of the court’s conservative wing, while Chief Justice John Roberts voted with its liberal members.

Newsom’s hypocrisy

As Fox noted separately, Newsom came under fire last month after photographs emerged showing him at a crowded dinner party, not wearing a mask or social distancing. Meanwhile, the state of California continues to suffer harsh regulations and shutdowns under his governance.

Attorneys for Harvest Rock made note of this double standing in their request to the Supreme Court: “For the governor, COVID-19 restrictions are apparently optional and penalty free.

“But for Churches or anyone worshipping in their own home with someone who does not live there,” they added, “COVID-19 restrictions are mandatory and enforced via criminal penalties.”

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