Court Blocks Imposing Certain COVID 19 Rules In California


The Supreme Court remained divided with regard to California’s prohibition on indoor services in churches. It, however, blocked its enforcement in California this Friday. This is the latest among the cases in which experts requested the justices to evaluate the measures to slow the pandemic in light of the religious freedom the country’s constitution guarantees.

Court Blocks Imposing Certain COVID 19 Rules In California

South Bay United Pentecostal Church, a 600-member congregation, for instance, had filed an emergency plea asking it to block certain COVID 19 rules. This included the prohibition of indoor church services in certain parts of the State and the limiting of attendance in other parts. Harvest Rock Church, another 1250-member Church too had filed a similar petition. A court bench with a 6-3 majority blocked the rule in counties where the pandemic was the most severe.  It, however, allowed a cap on attendance based on the size of the building. It even allowed the State to prohibit chanting and singing during the service.

Court Blocks Imposing Certain COVID 19 Rules In California

The court owes great respect to political officials with regard to public health. It also added that respect has a limit. It, however, did not fail to notice that according to the State’s present order, the maximum number of people allowed in the most cavernous cathedral is zero. This does not take the interests at stake. Some justices, however, disagree in the matter.

Justices are not scientists. They are not fully aware of the public health policy. Still, the court blocked the judgments of experts on how to respond to a pandemic.

The crux of this case and a numerous others, is the question as to how far can State go in its implementation of rules on churches. During the pandemic, many religious leaders were of the opinion that the State overstepped its authority.

In a series of cases, the court gave the governors some way to implement their orders in the States like Nevada, California   and Illinois. However, a 5-4 majority blocked the cap on attendance last November.

From that time, the Supreme Court sent several cases to lower courts. They asked them to make a judgment with the New York ruling in mind. In the case of South Bay, the church argued that neither California nor the lower courts did anything to reduce restrictions.

In all scenarios, senior justices argue that States treat churches less fairly than others. In fact, it puts praying on a worse footing than gambling, biking in gyms or drinking in bars. Besides, it does not prohibit people from running in and out of shopping malls and other similar establishments. In fact, California is the only State that restricts indoor church services; according to some judges. Still, it allows other facilities to conduct secular festivals. 

In California, there exists a 4-tear system. It is based on this system that the State imposes restrictions. The court of appeal upheld even in its ninth circuit this month, allowed the State to prohibit indoor services in churches in severely affected counties. It, however, struck down the 100-200 attendance gaps there. The court also allowed the prohibition of singing and chanting in indoor services. In South Bay, the litigants pointed out that certain businesses were allowed in certain highest tear. The State opposed it saying that those too had restrictions in place. The places that attracted crowds like theaters too have certain restrictions.

The lawyers on the two sides differed with regard to Los Angeles County. The church told in the court that the State would not prohibit indoor church services there. It respects the court’s ruling. The lawyers, however, said that the County has no power to go against the State law.

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