Supreme Court Rules 5-4 To Uphold Pandemic Orders Limiting Church Services

SCOTUS Early on in the pandemic, I wrote about how governors can shutdown churches under the Constitution.  On Friday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to reject an emergency appeal from a California church over the imposition of limits on the size of attendance at services.  The church came close to prevailing. Chief Justice John Roberts joined his liberal colleagues in upholding what he said were limits that “appear consistent” with the First Amendment. The cost ruling is an indication of how courts are applying closer scrutiny to the treatment of churches as opposed to other institutions allowed to have greater numbers of people.

Last week, President Donald Trump has pledged that he will “override” state orders barring in-person religious services unless governors do so.  As I have previously noted, the President is claiming authority that is expressly denied to him in our system of federalism. While I have warned such deference given to the states wanes with time, any order to reopen churches in a given state will be based on the inherent authority of the courts, not the President.  The Administration can, and has promised, joined legal challenges to such state orders but it is not claiming the inherent authority of presidents to “override” state decisions.  The Justice Department has warned Newsom that his order is contravening constitutional rights.  However, now that the Supreme Court has ruled, any move by President Trump to “override” such orders would directly contravene the authority of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of what the Constitution means in such conflicts.

Roberts wrote in brief opinion that the state could restrict churches to 25% of their capacity, with no more than 100 worshipers at a time. The court also rejected an appeal from two churches in the Chicago area that objected to Gov. Jay Pritzker’s limit of 10 worshipers at religious services.

220px-File-Official_roberts_CJ_croppedIn his concurrence, Roberts wrote:

“The precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement. Our Constitution principally entrusts “[t]he safety and the health of the people” to the politically accountable officials of the States “to guard and protect.” Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11, 38 (1905). When those officials “undertake[ ] to act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties,” their latitude “must be especially broad.” Marshall v. United States, 414 U. S. 417, 427 (1974). Where those broad limits are not exceeded, they should not be subject to second-guessing by an “unelected federal judiciary,” which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people.”


The Roberts decision is striking in fairly cursory treatment of the other options for the state given the obligation of the state to must show that the limits are “justified by a compelling governmental interest” and “narrowly tailored to advance that interest.” The sharp division shows, as we discussed earlier, how such deference to the states in a pandemic tends to wane with time.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the state had failed to satisfy the high standard for review in such limits on the free exercise of religion.

“California has ample options that would allow it to combat the spread of COVID–19 without discriminating against religion. … But absent a compelling justification (which the State has not offered), the State may not take a looser approach with, say, supermarkets, restaurants, factories, and offices while imposing stricter requirements on places of worship. The State also has substantial room to draw lines, especially in an emergency. But as relevant here, the Constitution imposes one key restriction on that line-drawing: The State may not discriminate against religion.

In sum, California’s 25% occupancy cap on religious worship services indisputably discriminates against religion, and such discrimination violates the First Amendment. The Church would suffer irreparable harm from not being able to hold services on Pentecost Sunday in a way that comparable secular businesses and persons can conduct their activities. I would therefore grant the Church’s request for a temporary injunction.”


Here is the opinion: South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom

140 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rules 5-4 To Uphold Pandemic Orders Limiting Church Services”

  1. I think what everyone is missing here, the politicians the judges all the “Authorities” is that, if all churches and people decided that we don’t need them anymore and just everyone went to church or to work and united together there is nothing they could do!!! Thats the truth and thats a real revolution that needs to happen if we are ever going to get our freedom back from these tyrants.

  2. John Roberts is a traitor.

    John Roberts has now officially committed technical, constitutional treason by offering his support to the effects of the military ordnance, COVID-19, released, wittingly or ostensibly unwittingly, by the mortal enemy of America, China, which are the broad abrogation and destruction of fundamental law in the United States and the denial and nullification of the constitutional freedoms of assembly and religion.

    John Roberts has now technically and actually supported the war conducted by China “…against the United States,…levying war against them…adhering to their enemies…giving them aid and comfort.”

    Article 3, Section 3

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

  3. “You can’t handle the truth!”

    – Colonel Jessup

    You can’t grasp the global nature of American freedom, wherein the New Sovereign is the People and government is merely the Subject of the New Sovereign.

    The Supreme Court is Drunk With Power and Engaged in Supreme Corruption.

    Justices must be impeached for dereliction, abuse of power, usurpation and nullification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Constitution provides the freedom and, therefore, the power to the People to decide on use of the freedoms of assembly and religion and on matters of health. The Constitution does not provide the power to the Congress to decide matters of belief, religion or personal health, or to deny constitutional rights. The Constitution does not provide power to the States to nullify or deny constitutional rights, freedoms, privileges or immunities. That civil officers and pundits desire power, hold certain beliefs and are subject to impulse does not bear.

    “…men…may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

    “…courts…must…declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.”

    “[A] limited Constitution … can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing … To deny this would be to affirm … that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

    – Alexander Hamilton

    In fact, the Constitution may be a “suicide pact” if free Americans, the People, choose it to be. Americans enjoy the freedom of religion, the free exercise thereof and the freedom of assembly. Government enjoys no power to nullify and deny those freedoms. The decision is that of the People, not the Congress or the States.

    Professor Turley cites no power provided to Congress by the Constitution to deny constitutional rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities because it does not exist. The Constitution does not provide emergency powers; they are “imagined” and “implied.” Congress may suspend Habeas Corpus in a condition of “invasion” or “rebellion,” neither of which exist in the case of influenza.

    Every level of government must present “probable cause” before detaining any individual, including drunk drivers and restaurant owners. A health department may present probable cause as extant cases of witting or unwitting criminal poisoning. Colds and the flu do not constitute a crime. That vulnerable segments of the population die from “complications” from the flu is normal, usual and customary, as are highway deaths. “China Flu” is no different from other influenzas.

    “The Great American ‘China Flu’ Hoax and Melodrama” was created by communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) to be taken full advantage of in this 2020 presidential election year. The only resolution is for the “China Flu” to spread over the population generating immunity.

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