Take Me To Church Scotus 2021

March 30, 2021
Take Me To Church Scotus 2021

Take Me To Church

The Supreme Court rules California must allow indoor worship services (while also permitting certain restrictions).

What happened & why some believe this ruling reflects more than just church and state.

The Backstory

  • California = America’s most populous state, and one of the hardest-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • CA’s restrictions vary by county based on how widespread infection is. “Tier 1” counties, with the highest infections, have had the strictest rules – incl. no indoor dining or worship services.
  • CA churches argued the restrictions violated their constitutional rights & appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“…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.”

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch writes CA is "playing favorites … to protect lucrative industries" with the same or less risk than someone attending church – i.e. allowing manicurists & retail stores to operate indoors w/ limited capacities.

“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.”

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan argues the court is insisting on treating church services like secular activities that pose less risk to the community. In a divided ruling, the court says CA must allow indoor worship for now but may limit singing & chanting, and may cap overall capacity at 25%.

Why It Matters

  • Does this ruling reflect a greater legal or social trend? Two points to consider:
  • “…the orders marked a new display of the eagerness of the court’s conservative wing to protect religious rights even when officials say public health is at stake.” Bloomberg Law
  • Politicians are increasingly trying to restrict core American liberties, and the courts are a last line of defense.” The Wall Street Journal (op-ed)

Almost all CA is in "Tier 1," meaning most Californians haven't been able to attend indoor services. The SCOTUS ruling includes new justice Amy Coney Barrett – considered "conservative" by analysts. An early case study on COVID loosely connected church attendance & singing to infection spread; those findings were based on no mask-wearing, social distancing, or capacity limits.

The details of the case https://www.scotusblog.com/2021/02/divided-court-allows-indoor-worship-services-to-resume-in-california/

Read directly from the Supreme Court Justices in their own words

Editorial from The Wall Street Journal

Here’s the overview from Bloomberg Law

Early study shows singing and church potential spread of COVID HERE

by Jenna Lee,