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US Supreme Court bucks Newsom's restrictions on California churches

In a six-three decision late Friday evening, the Supreme Court lifted California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom's ban on indoor religious services.

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Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
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In a six-three decision late Friday evening, the Supreme Court lifted California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom's ban on indoor religious services during the pandemic, and said that the orders violate the Constitution's first amendment.

The ruling over ruled the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court and federal judges in San Diego and San Bernardino. The Supreme Court ruled that the state may limit attendance at indoor services to 25 percent of the building's capacity, and that singing and chanting may be restricted as well.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which brought the suit on behalf of the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista and the Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, alleged that California has enforced "the most extreme restriction on worship in the country," and that California is "the only state to ban indoor worship" in all but sparsely populated counties.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote "Since the arrival of COVID–19, California has openly imposed more stringent regulations on religious institutions than on many businesses. California worries that worship brings people together for too much time. Yet, California does not limit its citizens to running in and out of other establishments; no one is barred from lingering in shopping malls, salons, or bus terminals."

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that he could not accept California's "present determination that the maximum number of adherents who can safely worship in the most cavernous cathedral is zero... Deference, though broad, has its limits."

Before Thanksgiving the Supreme Court signaled that this ruling would be coming by striking down part of New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo's coronavirus restrictions which limited gatherings at houses of worship to 25 people in specified neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens which were alleged to have been targeting Jewish communities.

When the court granted the appeal from the California churches asked the federal judges to reconsider their decisions that had upheld Newsom's ban on indoor church services, but they declined to do so.

Governor Newsom's approval numbers fell below 50 percent mark on Tuesday, down to 46 percent from a previous high of 64 percent over public disapproval of his poor handling of the pandemic.

Newsom is facing a potential recall which is almost at the required signature threshold to be placed on the ballot.

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