Supreme Court Lifts California Restrictions On At-Home Worship Gatherings

Headline Roundup April 11th, 2021

On Friday night, the Supreme Court struck down California's limits on home-based worship meetings, saying it violated constitutional rights. The court's five conservative justices agreed to lift California restrictions that apply to in-home religious gatherings, while the court's three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts would not have done so. Currently, most of the state limits indoor social gatherings to no more than three households and require attendees to wear masks and keep a physical distance. The unsigned order from the court states, “California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise,” referencing the state's decision to allow hair salons, retail stores, and movie theaters to reopen. Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor that the court's decision hurts state officials' ability to address the public health emergency. The court acknowledged that California's policy on gatherings will change next week, but said the restrictions will 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.” This order comes after a series of cases in which the court barred officials from enacting some COVID-related restrictions on religious gatherings. In February, The Supreme Court ordered California to allow churches to resume indoor worship services at limited capacity.

The story received coverage from across the political spectrum. Some left-rated coverage highlighted Justice Amy Coney Barrett's "decisive" role in the court's dynamic, pointing out that since Barrett's confirmation, the court has repeatedly ruled in favor of religious groups who claim state restrictions against worship gatherings violate the constitution.

Supreme Court Lifts California Restrictions On At-Home Worship Gatherings

From the Center

For the fifth time, the U.S. Supreme Court has sided with religious adherents and against California's COVID-19 restrictions. This time, the court barred the state from enforcing a rule that for now limits both religious and non-religious gatherings in homes to no more than three households.

The court's unsigned order came on a 5-4 vote. Chief Justice John Roberts cast his lot with the dissenters, but failed to join their opinion. He noted simply that he would have left the lower court order intact.

A panel of the 9th Circuit...

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From the Left

In another late-night ruling, the Supreme Court on Friday blocked another California coronavirus restriction on religious gatherings, saying the state’s limits on home-based Bible study and prayer sessions violated constitutional rights.

The 5-to-4 order on an emergency petition illustrates how a new majority on the court — with Justice Amy Coney Barrett playing a decisive role — is now in control when the court considers if pandemic-related restrictions cross the line to endanger religious rights.

Constitutional protections are implicated any time a state treats “any comparable secular activity more favorably...

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From the Right

The U.S. Supreme Court in a divided decision late Friday ruled in favor of lifting restrictions on in-home religious gatherings, overturning a lower court ruling that upheld Gov. Gavin Newsom’s limits on people from different homes.

The 5-4 unsigned ruling follows other similar decisions recently regarding churches and the coronavirus pandemic. The decision noted it was the fifth time the court has rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California coronavirus restrictions.

Chief Justice John Roberts dissented but did not sign the dissenting statement submitted by justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor...

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