On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that California cannot block churches and other religious organizations from conducting services indoors because of the COVID-19(84) pandemic. The decision was a huge victory for First Amendment rights and for Religious Freedom.
But the Court failed to roll back all coronavirus-related restrictions enacted on religious gatherings in California, so believers still live in a religious gulag out there.
Even though Chief Justice Roberts once ridiculed President Donald Trump by claiming there are no Obama judges and Trump judges, the Court voted along ideological lines 6-3 that California can no longer ban indoor worship.
What gets me is that not a single person in the entire mainstream news media will point out the fact that there are three Supreme Court justices who voted against stopping a governor, the state if you will, from trashing the First Amendment’s Freedom of Religion clause.
Apparently, the justices were incapable of coming to an agreement on certain other restrictions created against religious gatherings like not allowing singing in church and lowering the lawful capacity of churches during services because the state said they were necessary for public health. The numbers have come out and COVID-19 has a mortality rate just under that of the flu, and we haven’t banned religious services for the flu.
If the state argued that the virus is more easily transmitted indoors, then why has it been so hell-bent on locking its citizens down in their homes during the pandemic? Are they arguing that the pandemic virus spreads more easily only inside houses of worship and nowhere else indoors? Did anyone think to ask that question?
Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his opinion that “federal courts owe significant deference to politically accountable officials with the ‘background, competence, and expertise to assess public health.'”
“The State has concluded, for example, that singing indoors poses a heightened risk of transmitting COVID–19. I see no basis in this record for overriding that aspect of the state public health framework,” Roberts wrote. “At the same time, 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.”
The state didn’t force such draconian restrictions on many other types of businesses, so it came off looking like a bunch of godless socialists wanted to attack houses of worship, because, well, obviously.
Gorsuch wrote in his opinion “California singles out religion for worse treatment than many secular activities” evern after the High Court recently made “it abundantly clear that edicts like California’s fail strict scrutiny and violate the Constitution.”
Democrats have not abode by the Constitution for a very long time so they are expected to not adhere to rulings that come down from the Supreme Court that they disagree with.
Gorsuch went further and accused California officials of “playing favorites during a pandemic, expending considerable effort to protect lucrative industries … while denying similar largesse to its faithful.”
Gorsuch concluded, “As this crisis enters its second year— and hovers over a second Lent, a second Passover, and a second Ramadan—it is too late for the State to defend extreme measures with claims of temporary exigency, if it ever could. Drafting narrowly tailored regulations can be difficult. But if Hollywood may host a studio audience or film a singing competition while not a single soul may enter California’s churches, synagogues, and mosques, something has gone seriously awry.”
I am shocked and stunned that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) hasn’t already publicly threatened Gorsuch for making a ruling that he doesn’t like. Oh, wait, he already did that last year.
Writing the dissenting opinion, Kagan claimed the court’s decision “orders California to weaken its restrictions on public gatherings by making a special exception for worship services.” Maybe that’s because worship services have a Constitutional guarantee in the First Amendment. Kagan should read it sometime.
“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,” Kagan wrote. “Under the Court’s injunction, the State must instead treat worship services like secular activities that pose a much lesser danger. That mandate defies our caselaw, exceeds our judicial role, and risks worsening the pandemic.”
The same argument could be made about Governor Gavin Newsom and his band of legislative marauders. They are not scientists nor do they know about public health policy. If they can listen to the “science” then so can six conservatives who sit on the Supreme Court. Either way Religious Freedom will take the win.
Rich is syndicated opinion columnist for David Harris Jr. and owner of Maga-Chat.com. He writes about politics, culture, liberty and faith.
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