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What Justice Gorsuch Had to Say About California’s COVID Ban on Indoor Church Services

By Alice Chao posted on:
February 15, 2021

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court released a decision lifting California’s unconstitutional ban on indoor religious services.

The Court voted 6-3 in favor of two California churches challenging Governor Gavin Newsom’s complete ban of indoor worship services while the government continues to grapple with handling COVID-19.

Justice Neil Gorsuch had strong words for California officials who violated the First Amendment.

“Even in times of crisis—perhaps especially in times of crisis—we have a duty to hold governments to the Constitution,” wrote Justice Gorsuch in his concurrence, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Gorsuch continued, observing: “As this crisis enters its second year—and hovers over a second Lent, a second Passover, and a second Ramadan—it is too late for the State to defend extreme measures with claims of temporary exigency, if it ever could.”

He’s right.

The Constitution makes it clear that government officials, including Gov. Newsom, cannot treat churches worse than secular businesses throughout their COVID-19 response.

Though Gov. Newsom’s restrictions on religious gatherings are certainly some of the most stringent in the country, California is sadly not the only government to have treated religious Americans differently during this unprecedented time in history.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have seen this unfair treatment first hand, in Nevada (with casinos); Washington state and Oregon (with cannabis retailers), Mississippi and Tennessee (with drive-in restaurants), as well as several other states.

Addressing the unfair treatment in California, Justice Gorsuch stated the obvious: “[I]f Hollywood may host a studio audience or film a singing competition while not a single soul may enter California’s churches, synagogues, and mosques, something has gone seriously awry.”

Yes, something has gone wrong when government officials in a country that cherishes religious freedom treat churches worse than Hollywood, marijuana dispensaries, and casinos. Shouldn’t Americans who are safely practicing their First Amendment rights be afforded the same deference?

Learn more about how your church can support this church and others harmed by government overreach during COVID-19. 

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ADF Media Relations Specialist Alice Chao

Alice Chao

Media Relations Specialist

Alice Chao serves as a Media Relations Specialist at Alliance Defending Freedom.


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