“[Nevada’s] message is this: forget about worship and head for the slot machines…."
ADF attorneys are representing Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley as it challenges Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 restrictions, which treat religious gatherings worse than similar secular gatherings. In November, ADF filed the church's second petition to the Supreme Court asking it to correct this unconstitutional treatment of churches.
While ADF awaits the Supreme Court’s decision, the case moves forward in the lower courts. Today, ADF attorneys are defending Calvary Chapel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
When Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak first began reopening the state in June, his order capped churches to 50 people maximum, while the state’s world-famous casinos were allowed to welcome up to half capacity. Put another way: “…if a casino and a church both have capacity for 2,000, the casino can entertain 1,000 gamblers while the church can only host 50 of its faithful for worship.”
The “science” of why 50 worshippers pose the same risk as 1,000 casino patrons (20 times the allowed number of churchgoers) defies reason.
Perhaps it’s the economics of the gambling—the tourism and tax dollars that come with it. But the Governor seems to have forgotten two things:
- The First Amendment is priceless; and
- His executive power, even in times of crisis, is not absolute.
As ADF attorneys argued in our reply brief to the 9th Circuit: “Restricting religious gatherings for more than five months, with no end in sight, is not a rapidly changing, temporary measure that deserves substantial deference. It is government overreach in clear violation of constitutional principles.”
All Calvary Chapel is asking for is the ability to meet under the half-capacity rule like casinos, including the one less than five miles from the church.
After all, the “new normal” should never include an infringement on our constitutionally protected freedom of religion.
Learn more about how your church can support this church and others harmed by government overreach during COVID-19.
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