In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court granted a temporary injunction to a Colorado church that was fighting Governor Jared Polis’s restrictions on capacity.
The court pointed to a decision in New York where the Catholic diocese of Brooklyn sued Governor Andrew Cuomo over his pandemic restrictions and won on the grounds that Cuomo’s orders violated the First Amendment.
This would appear to open the door to churches nationwide to decide their own COVID policies.
Justice Elena Kagan dissented, along with Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, pointing to the fact that Colorado had preemptively lifted its church limitations once the High Plains Harvest appealed to the high court.
“The state has explained that it took that action in response to this court’s recent decision in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo,” Kagan wrote. “Absent our issuing different guidance, there is no reason to think Colorado will reverse course — and so no reason to think Harvest Church will again face capacity limits.”
Given that governors are slapping restrictions as severe as they were in the spring on their citizens, Kagan and the liberals are taking a lot on faith.
The arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the court has proven to be a godsend to religious liberty.
The cases highlight the impact of Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the bench. Before her arrival, Chief Justice John Roberts had sided with the liberals, including the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, against houses of worship in similar disputes. Since Barrett’s arrival, however, and the establishment of a strong 6-3 conservative majority, the court now has reversed course and has the necessary votes to side with religious groups.
Another important religious liberty case in New Jersey was also decided in favor of houses of worship. The New Jersey suit concerned not only limiting capacity but also the mask mandate that required mask-wearing in church except for receiving communion.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal defended the state’s restrictions telling the justices that the state as “accommodated religious conduct — ensuring religious activities receive at least as much protection as secular conduct, if not more.”
New Jersey requires that religious gatherings fill no more than 25% of the room.
The Supreme Court issued the order with no dissent.
What’s truly disturbing is that political authorities thought nothing of violating the religious beliefs and liberty of the people in the name of “public health.” That the Supreme Court was forced into upholding our most fundamental rights against this assault says a lot about the state of freedom in the United States today and why vigilance, especially over the next four years, will be so important.