Supreme Court overturns Covid related restrictions on houses of worship
The Supreme Court placed religious freedom before pandemic precautions Wednesday night, temporarily blocking recent rules in New York that severely restricted gatherings at houses of worship in areas hit hardest by COVID-19.
The court's new, more conservative majority ruled 5-4 that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's limits on churches, synagogues and other houses of worship to 10 or 25 worshipers in hard-hit regions appeared to violate the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause.
"Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten," the court's unsigned majority opinion said. "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty."
It was a reversal from earlier actions taken by the high court in response to state restrictions on organized religion during the coronavirus pandemic. The justices previously refused to lift restrictions on churches in California and Nevada, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's four liberals in upholding state restrictions.
But since then, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and was succeeded by Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority. Roberts and the three liberal justices dissented from Wednesday night's ruling.
But Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch took direct aim at Roberts' earlier opinion in the California case, arguing that ceding authority to elected officials takes judicial modesty too far.
"It is time – past time – to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques," he wrote.
In California where strip shows are still allowed by church services are not, creative minsters redesignated their facilities as stripper lounges and start their service by taking off their ties. It is a way to point out how ridiculous the restrictions are and proves Gorsuch's point.