Bible studies

Supreme Court Rules California Cannot Enforce COVID-19 Rules Limiting Bible Study and Prayer Meetings

The Supreme Court tells California it cannot enforce coronavirus restrictions that limit home religious worship, including Bible studies and prayer meetings.

The court order Friday night is the latest in a recent string of cases in which the High Court has banned officials from enforcing certain coronavirus-related restrictions on religious gatherings.

Five Tory justices have agreed California’s restrictions on home religious gatherings should be lifted for now, while the court’s three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts have not.

However, California already has announced significant changes easing restrictions on gatherings that take effect on April 15. The changes come after infection rates in the condition drop.

The case before the judges involved California rules that, in most states, limit social gatherings indoors to no more than three households. Participants are required to wear masks and to physically distance themselves from each other. Different restrictions apply to locations, including schools, grocery stores, and churches.

“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than home religious exercise,” allowing hair salons, retail stores, and movie theaters, among others, “to bring together more than three households at a time,” the unsigned order from the court said. A lower court “did not find that these activities presented a lower risk of transmission than the religious exercise offered by the plaintiffs at home,” he said.

The court acknowledged that California’s policy on rallies would change next week, but said restrictions remained in place until then and “officials with a proven track record in” moving the goalposts “remained in power. to reinstate these increased restrictions at any time “.

Judge Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent for herself and her fellow Liberals Judge Stephen Breyer and Judge Sonia Sotomayor that the majority of the court was undermining the ability of state officials to cope with an emergency public health.

“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. While the state also restricts all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the state is doing just that: It has enacted a blanket restriction on home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular. California doesn’t need to… treat home church gatherings the same as hardware stores and hair salons, ”she wrote. She added that “the law does not require the state to also process apples and watermelons.”

The case before the judges involved two residents of Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area, who wish to hold small in-person Bible study sessions in their homes. California had defended its policy of restricting social gatherings as “completely neutral.”

The court has dealt with a series of cases in which religious groups have challenged restrictions on coronaviruses impacting worship services. While at the start of the pandemic, the court sided with state officials despite the objection of religious groups, which changed after the death of Liberal Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September and her replacement by Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

In November, the the high court banned in New York impose certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus. And in February, the High Court has told California it cannot ban indoor religious services due to the coronavirus pandemic, although it has so far upheld the ban on singing and singing in inside.

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