In a split decision, the Supreme Court ruled against regulations imposed by California Democratic officials through which they have limited religious worship in homes, including group Bible studies and prayer meetings, putting First Amendment rights at risk.
The court’s order released Friday night is the latest in a recent series of cases. The high court has barred officials from enforcing some CCP Virus-related restrictions that directly affect religious liberties.
Five conservative justices agreed that California’s restrictions enforced against religious gatherings in private homes should be lifted, at least for now. In comparison, the court’s three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts disagreed.
While California has announced significant changes in relaxing restrictions on meetings that will take effect on April 15, it was unclear what would happen to religious meetings in homes.
“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than religious exercise in the home,” which allows beauty salons, retail stores, and movie theaters, among other places, to “gather multiple people at one time,” the court’s order reads.
A lower court “did not conclude that those activities pose a lesser risk of transmission than applicants’ proposed religious exercise at home,” the ruling said.
The ruling stated that before it can limit religious gatherings, the California government would have to show that the activity in question poses a greater danger than secular activities that remain open, such as shopping or going to the movies.
The legal disputes between the California government and various representatives of temples and religions began just weeks after the CCP virus quarantine began in 2020. Throughout the year, there was legal back-and-forth with varying outcomes for and against.
The lawsuit in question was filed by two residents of Santa Clara County, California, who intend to hold small, in-person Bible study sessions in their homes. In an e-mail message Saturday, one of their attorneys, Ryan J. Walsh, said he and his colleagues were “thrilled beyond words” for their clients, Fox News reported.
A federal judge ruled against the lawsuit, which the Ninth Circuit upheld in San Francisco before being reversed by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s final decision noted that it was the fifth time the court had rejected the same Ninth Circuit analysis of California’s coronavirus restrictions.