Supreme Court sides with houses of worship in Colorado, New Jersey, on coronavirus restrictions

The rulings are the latest by the high court against pandemic restrictions on religious institutions.
Image: Morning light shines outside the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Zach Gibson / Getty Images file

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of houses of worship in Colorado and New Jersey that opposed capacity limits on worship services.

In the Colorado case, the court ruled 6-3 to send the lawsuit, brought by the High Plains Harvest Church, back to the lower courts, where the church had lost.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying the case was moot because Colorado had already lifted all the limits. “There is no reason to think Colorado will reverse course — and so no reason to think Harvest Church will again face capacity limits,” the dissent said.

The 150-seat church filed suit in May, arguing Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ order capping attendance to 50 people was too restrictive. Lower court judges had refused to sign off on an order that would have made the church exempt from those restrictions.

The high court said the lower court judges should review the case in light of its ruling in a similar case involving New York last month.

In a second ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling limiting New Jersey’s application of Covid-19 restrictions that apply to religious settings, granting an injunction sought by two religious institutions — a church in North Caldwell and a synagogue in Lakewood.

The church and synagogue asked for an injunction allowing them “to host indoor, in-person religious worship for their respective congregations on the same terms and conditions allowed for comparable secular activities; that is, either the 100% of capacity afforded ‘essential’ non-retail businesses or, alternatively, the 50% of capacity allowed for ‘essential’ retail businesses, with the same health and safety protocols and exemptions applicable to comparable secular activities.”

In the New York case, the Supreme Court issued an injunction blocking Gov. Andrew Cuomo from enforcing 10- and 25-person occupancy limits on religious institutions.

The state had told the court there was no need to act because the restrictions, which were adopted as a way to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, had recently been dialed back.

In a strongly worded dissent, Sotomayor warned the ruling could have dangerous consequences.

“Justices of this court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily,” she wrote, predicting the decision “will only exacerbate the nation’s suffering.”

The court had rejected challenges to similar measures in California and Nevada in 5-4 rulings earlier this year, before the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the addition of the conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the bench.

In pointed public remarks to the conservative Federalist Society last month before the New York ruling, Justice Samuel Alito said the restrictions in Nevada and California had “blatantly discriminated against houses of worship” and he warned that “religious liberty is in danger of becoming a second-class right.”

20 thoughts on “Supreme Court sides with houses of worship in Colorado, New Jersey, on coronavirus restrictions

  • Do shoppers in “essential retail” businesses spend 1-3 hours inside alternately sitting and standing and singing? Both time in space and singing are activities with documented increase of spread…

    Liked by 2 people

    • These Christian leaders, so-called, are not about religion, soul salvation, or any form of social benefit from them. They are carving out a place for themselves in the name of religious freedom which only works for a certain kind of Christian. Retail outlets require masks. What these Christians have is the Supreme Court and government leadership in Washington and many states (Red) ignoring common sense, scientific, and medical expertise for no good reason. They incite their white supremacist sycophantic minions to a slobbering rage that they don’t understand themselves. They simply know they need to be angry, defy all attempts by others to keep them safe, and by all means, do not wear a mask.

      “It is not a social or cultural movement. It is a political movement, and its ultimate goal is power. It does not seek to add another voice to America’s pluralistic democracy but to replace our foundational democratic principles and institutions with a state grounded on a particular version of Christianity, answering to what some adherents call a “biblical worldview” that also happens to serve the interests of its plutocratic funders and allied political leaders.”

      Stewart, Katherine. The Power Worshippers (p. 3). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

      (Their objective) … is to redefine religious freedom to mean the freedom to discriminate against those who do not share our religious belief.”

      Stewart, Katherine. The Power Worshippers (p. 56). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

      Until this debacle, I thought America was a fairly educated and intelligent society. It is a scary thing to think that I am among the more intelligent.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yup. 😦
        (I was actually never under the illusion that we were either educated nor intelligent, but I did believe that we were basically decent people who wanted to learn. I’m not sure of either, anymore.)

        Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Shira. You are correct. You see what the dissent in the opinion pointed out also. However the privileged religion pushers not only can not see the point of that, they somehow think just the fact it is in a Christian church makes it safer and sacred. They think because it is to praise their god that Covid can not hurt them there, Covid is scared of and controlled by their god. The fact that so many people have gotten Covid in churches and in fact died from it after getting it in churches doesn’t matter to them. Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

      • The burning question none of them are able to answer … WHY did their all-powerful god allow COVID-19 to manifest in the first place?

        Oh wait! I take that back! They do have an answer! “He” allowed it because of the awful, horrible, devil-inspired SIN in the world!!!! Undoubtedly, if we were ALL good little Christians, it would never have happened. Right? Right!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hello Nan. Never forget that nasty free will stuff? It is such a scam and they do not even hide it. They create the boogieman that causes a problem only appeasing him can fix. And of course the only fix is mortal money, that stuff used to provide possessions that a deity who could poof the entire universe into being can not seem to make so your church leaders need all your cash. Do I have it figured correctly? Hugs

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yep! You’re right on target. What’s so mind-boggling is the millions of people who are taken in by these shysters. One thing you’ve got to say about them … they’re good at what they do. VERY good.

            Liked by 1 person

      • This is very worrisome, as with all Jim Jones and Jesuit (‘give us a boy until he is 7, and he is ours for life’) types of philosophies.
        We can only keep hope, and hope in hope, and work to educate, I think, while we also work to build a safety net for everyone (especially for kids, which is the origin of my free-room-and-rice as soon as you can fry an egg idea…).
        We Shall Overcome.

        Liked by 2 people

        • The Christian Nationalists have a program they call 4/14. It refers to the age that children are the most suscepable to indoctrination. They have wormed their way into public schools, thanks to Justices Thomas and Alito. All the time they cry about secular indoctrination in public education, they are pushing for religious indoctrination. Now that they have the Supreme Court in conservative activist hands, they will be all out to eliminate public schools.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Why eliminate the PS system when they could use it to indoctrinate instead? But, it still requires that teachers on the front lines be willing to teach that material in a way that will indoctrinate, rather than encourage questioning.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Surprise!!! They are already in the PS. They do programs mainly after school called The Good News Club. They have some slick lawyers who have helped them force their way in. But this only works for Christians and the ‘right kind’ of Christians. If a church or denomination refuses to follow their program then they are excluded, and apparently when the usher in the Second Advent, those nonparticipating churches will be excluded from the ‘rapture.” too.

              “In 2012, when this book was first published, America’s public elementary schools hosted 3,400 Good News Clubs—evangelical clubs that deceive children as young as five into thinking that their public school endorses a certain fundamentalist brand of religion. As of this writing, there are close to 6000.” (A new preface was written for this 2017 edition.)

              Stewart, Katherine. The Good News Club . PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

              “They believe that our current public education system “indoctrinates” children in secularism—such is the way they understand the subjects of biology and history and more—so they are implacably opposed to it.”

              Stewart, Katherine. The Good News Club. PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

              I suppose because of the Christian religion blessing the institution of slavery, they are taking steps to rewrite our national history to reflect well on their own history. See here:

              “At the behest of board conservatives, the word “slavery” is removed from the standards, replaced by the awkwardly euphemistic term, “Atlantic triangular trade.” Students are also required to “learn about the unintended consequences” of affirmative action.”

              Stewart, Katherine. The Good News Club (pp. 167-168). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

              They want to present slavery as economic migration. They have no problem in lying to benefit their cause.
              (Ms. Jones, I see you signed onto my blog. I’m still trying to get it set up. I don’t know diddly about that, so I’m working my way through it. Soon, I hope. Thanx.)

              Liked by 2 people

              • Hello Cagjr. Thanks for the reminder of the after school club The Good News. I remember when the religious tried to get rid of the gay-straight alliance clubs the thing that stopped them was the threat of also having to stop the Good News clubs. I also like that The Satanic Temple uses these after school religious clubs to get their own secular ones in the same schools. It drives the Christians crazy. Hugs


            • Hello Shira. That is the other rub. World religions studies are allowed but Christians want it taught in a way that really teaches Christianity and that Christianity is supreme and the true religion. If Christians had their way and the Christian doctrines were to be mentioned taught in schools they would want to audit teachers to make sure that it was being taught favorable enough to their sect of the religion. In the end it is not about saving souls, but putting butts in the pews and dollars into the collection plates. Hugs

              Liked by 1 person

              • Your comment about the teaching of world religion brought back a memory. In my Jeeezus days, I attended a local community college and took a class in world religions. I dropped out after about just a couple of classes. Why? Because they had the gall (!) to actually teach about other religions and compare them with the “one true religion.”

                The indoctrination … oh how it burns.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Hello Nan. I have often thought that comparing religions and the way they are practiced would wake some people about their own religions. I was wrong. As you say they indoctrination runs deep and takes time to undo. Hugs

                  Liked by 1 person

          • Hello Cagjr. You make a good point about projection. It seems that they are like the Republican party and tRump in that respect. If they accuse you of doing it, it means they either are doing it or want to do it themselves. Hugs


        • Hello Shira. The thing I am waiting to see is as more and more church congregations suffer from sickness and death and now Republican lawmakers dying from this virus, will the leaders of both groups change their tune on Covid or are they too deeply invested to change no matter what happens. Hugs

          Liked by 1 person

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