California has been laboring under some of the strictest COVID-19 rules since the beginning of the pandemic, and despite the failure of those rules to prevent a massive outbreak of the virus in the state, Democrat leaders have refused to back down.
In a major win for religious liberty, the Supreme Court of the United States just issued a definitive ruling on Friday, ordering California leadership to allow churches to conduct indoor worship services regardless of the area’s COVID-19 status.
Freedom to worship
California was the first to enact a “stay-at-home” order in March of 2020, among other things, prohibiting religious organizations from meeting indoors from that date onward.
During the summer, California’s Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom instituted a tiered system in which the state’s 58 counties were placed ranked in a color-coded system based on the extent of the spread of the virus within the county’s borders.
Most counties never made it out of the most restrictive “purple” tier, with a few counties edging into the “red” tier — which allows severely limited capacity indoor services — for a few months.
Only the most sparsely populated rural counties entered the less-restrictive orange and yellow tiers over the summer.
California health officials and regulatory bodies took these rules extremely seriously, going after a number of large, high-profile churches state-wide that refused to comply with Newsom’s dictates.
The South Bay Pentecostal Church, a mid-sized congregation in San Diego, along with the larger Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, filed a petition asking the high court to halt enforcement of the prohibition on indoor services in their respective counties — both of which were placed in the purple tier.
In a 6-3 decision, with moderate Justice John Roberts siding with the conservative majority for once, the court granted the request to allow indoor services in the purple tier — though the decision upheld the state’s limitation on indoor services to 25 percent capacity.
Not the final word
“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,” wrote Roberts in his opinion favoring the decision.
Liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor appealed to the “scientists” in their dissent, with Kagan writing for the three that “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.”
The heavily Democrat-led California government has been relentless in its attacks on churches that defy its dictates — despite a refusal to even provide evidence backing up its public health decision-making process — so this is not likely the last time the Supreme Court will be asked to rule on a religious liberty lawsuit in the state.