SCOTUS vacates lower ruling against California church, calls for reconsideration of COVID restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court appears to be taking a stand against COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings.

In a recent order, the nation’s highest court signaled that it would deem Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s limits on in-person worship unconstitutional.

“Remain away from church against his will”

The came stemmed from prohibitions in multiple California counties on indoor gatherings at houses of worship with still other counties capping the number of people allowed to attend services.

Harvest Rock Church launched a legal challenge to those restrictions, arguing that they amount to a violation of the First Amendment.

Fox News explained that the church believes Newsom’s executive action illegally limits religious groups without taking similar steps to restrict secular activities.

The church’s attorneys additionally cited their interpretation of the restrictions as a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which declares that the government cannot “force or influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will.”

A district court judge ruled against Harvest Rock Church, but the Supreme Court has now ordered that the decision be revisited.

“It’s a whole new landscape”

Justice wrote in the ruling that the September order “is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit with instructions to remand to the District Court for further consideration in light of Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo.”

The referenced case ended in a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling against COVID-19 restrictions enacted by Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that limited indoor religious gatherings to as few as 10 attendees in areas where the infection rate was the highest.

In its latest decision on the matter, the nation’s highest court made it clear that the Brooklyn v. Cuomo precedent should be followed in challenges to coronavirus restrictions elsewhere across the nation.

Attorney Matthew Staver, who represents the California church, expressed a renewed desire to press forward with the case in light of the ruling.

“The bottom line result is that where the court needs to go is inevitable,” he said. “What the court did last week and what they did today, it’s a whole new landscape and I think they’ve telegraphed quite clearly the direction they’re going.”

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