(Liberty Bell) – Another serious blow to religious freedom in the United States.
The Supreme Court issued a rare ruling late Friday night against a California church which was challenging the state’s stay-at-home order, The Hill reports.
Chief Justice John Roberts broke from the other conserative justices by casting the fifth vote in California’s favor.
The case was brought by South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, California, who had said that coronavirus restrictions on churches had violated citizens’ religious freedom.
Roberts wrote in his opinion that the restrictions in place applied to non-religious gatherings as well, and so, did not discriminate against the faithful.
Above: Chief Justice John Roberts
“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Roberts wrote.
“…Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time,” he continued.
The rest of the conservative justices on the court dissented; Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
“The church and its congregants simply want to be treated equally to comparable secular businesses,” Kavanaugh wrote. “California already trusts its residents and any number of businesses to adhere to proper social distancing and hygiene practices.”
He was referring to an order Newsom had made on Monday which allowed churches to operate at 25 percent capacity, after the lawsuit was filed, and the state had received a warning from the Department of Justice for discriminating arbitrarily against churches in their phased reopening plan.
Also on Friday, the ruling came the same day that the court denied a request from Illinois churches to remove coronavirus restrictions. The Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker had lifted his measures voluntarily after being threatened with a suit in the Illinois Supreme Court.
Last week, President Donald Trump called on the nation’s governors to open up churches after he declared houses of worship were “essential.”
Liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, and grocery stores have remained open and considered “essential” in many states amid coronavirus shutdowns, while churches were not allowed to operate even drive-in services.
Religious liberty is enshrined in the constitution.
To not be considered “essential” is to be discriminated against. For people of faith, there is no greater essential service than religious counsel and fellowship.
This sets a chilling precedence for First Amendment freedoms in our nation.