The Supreme Court of the United States has sided with religious officials challenging Covid-19 restrictions.
The justices ordered a federal district court in Colorado to re-examine the state’s current guidelines on religious services. Their ruling aligns with an earlier decision barring the State of New York from limiting indoor capacity at houses of worship.
CBS News reports:
Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented in the Colorado case, writing it is moot because Colorado lifted the attendance limits in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the challenge to New York’s coronavirus restrictions.
“Absent our issuing different guidance, there is no reason to think Colorado will reverse course — and so no reason to think Harvest Church will again face capacity limits,” Kagan wrote. “When ‘subsequent events’ thus show that a challenged action cannot ‘reasonably be expected to recur,’ a case is well and truly over.”
The nine justices ruled on a similar case from New Jersey today, asking a lower court to revisit limits on religious services with instructions to consider the New York precedent.
New Jersey currently limits indoor worship to the lesser of 25% capacity or 150 people.
The dispute over the capacity restrictions was brought by High Plains Harvest Church, a church in Ault, Colorado, and its pastor, Mark Hotaling. Colorado capped attendance at houses of worship to 25% of their posted occupancy limit, not to exceed 50 people, in specific geographic zones as part of its efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. But the church argued the limitations violated the First Amendment and claimed the state was discriminating against religious gatherings in favor of secular gatherings.
In its filing with the Supreme Court asking it to lift the cap, High Plains Harvest Church said “it is difficult to imagine more blatantly unconstitutional discrimination against religious gatherings in favor of secular gatherings.”