The U.S. Supreme Court ruled April 9 in favor of lifting restrictions on in-home religious gatherings in California.
The 5-4 decision offered a sharp rebuke of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for its “erroneous” decision to not grant an injunction and its disregard of the high court’s earlier guidance in rulings siding with religious liberty over pandemic restrictions.
“This is the fifth time the court has summarily rejected the 9th Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise,” the majority wrote.
Forming the majority were Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
The court’s liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the three Democratic appointees, but he did not join their dissenting opinion.
“Hard to believe the Court didn’t rule unanimously that people could meet in a home for worship during COVID,” Sen. James Lankford posted to Twitter. “This is the fifth case coming out of California where they’re trying to prevent people from exercising their right to live their faith.
“It should be obvious that if you can go to work you should also be able to worship together,” he wrote in a subsequent tweet.
The majority agreed that California’s rule limiting at-home religious gatherings to three households violates the First Amendment’s protection of religious exercise.
“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise, permitting hair salons, retail stores, personal care services, movie theaters, private suites at sporting events and concerts, and indoor restaurants to bring together more than three households at a time,” the ruling stated.
Franklin Graham celebrated the decision, posting on Facebook: “I’m thankful for … [the] Supreme Court ruling that California’s limits on in-home religious gatherings cannot be any greater than secular activities that remain open. Residents in Santa Clara County had brought the case saying that Gov. Newsom’s limits infringed on their constitutional rights. I’m glad they stood up to defend their rights—and our rights.
“Pray for our Supreme Court justices as they deliberate difficult issues like this,” he added. “Remember, their rulings can have a great impact on the everyday lives of all Americans.”
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