Supreme Court Denies Appeals Of Churches Fighting Against State Restrictions On Worship

( The Supreme Court recently denied the appeals of two Christian churches who wanted the high court to overrule local restrictions on religious assemblies.
Christian churches in both San Diego, California, and Chicago, Illinois, asked the Supreme Court to overturn state rules that set limits on the number of people who can attend liturgies. The states have lifted outright bans on religious congregation in person, but have put limits on the number of people who can be in attendance.

The churches were hoping the Supreme Court would rule in their favor, acting quickly so they could resume their regular worship with normal attendance. However, while the court did act quickly, it didn’t rule in the churches’ favor.

In the California challenge, the justices ruled 5-4 against it, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the rest of the liberal justices. The Illinois appeal was rejected unanimously.
Roberts made a rare move when he issued a separate opinion on the California case, writing:
“Our Constitution principally entrusts ‘the safety and the health of the people’ to the politically accountable officials of the states. When those officials ‘undertake to act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties,’ their latitude ‘must be especially broad.’ Where those broad limits are not exceeded, they should not be subject to second-guessing by an ‘unelected federal judiciary,’ which lacks the background, competence and expertise to assess public health.”

President Donald Trump has urged local leaders to allow religious institutions to worship with full congregations. William Barr, the Attorney General, even directed the Department of Justice to monitor local pandemic restrictions for violations of the First Amendment in regard to churches specifically.

On May 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even labeled religious spaces as “essential.”

Even still, there are 20 states that still have some local restrictions and/or prohibitions on worship services. The other 30 states currently have no restrictions and/or prohibitions on religious services.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom issued guidance that calls for worship to be allowed to resume at either 25% capacity or with a maximum of 100 people, whichever number is lower. The state believes these are “reasonable accommodation,” especially since California is just in the opening phases of its reopening plan.
That being said, the South Bay Pentecostal Church is challenging that guidance, saying it’s being held to a higher standard than other sectors of life in California.
Even though the Supreme Court just ruled on two cases involving restrictions on religious institutions, it is likely to hear even more cases regarding this and other issues of public life in the coming months. In fact, the court is set to hear three cases this summer with some relation to religion.

The biggest of those is the Trump administration’s conscience exemption from the birth control mandate under Obamacare. The other two have to deal with state tax credit programs that support schools that are affiliated with churches, and religious exemptions from employment nondiscrimination laws.