The U.S. Supreme Court told a federal trial judge to take a fresh look at assertions that California is infringing religious rights by banning indoor worship services in most of the state amid a resurgence of Covid-19 cases.
The high court’s one-paragraph order Thursday hints at the possible ripple effects of its decision last week blocking strict capacity limits on New York churches and synagogues. The justices, without any noted dissents, set aside U.S. District Judge
Under the restrictions imposed in July by Governor
Harvest Rock Church, which seats 1,250 people in its Pasadena facility, sued to challenge the rules, saying they unconstitutionally favor secular gatherings, including non-worship activities that take place inside a church building. The church’s affiliated Harvard International Ministry joined the lawsuit.
Bernal and then a divided appeals court backed the state, pointing to evidence that the risk of spreading the virus is especially high in settings like church services where large groups gather for an extended period.
California on Wednesday reported 20,759 new coronavirus infections, shattering the previous record of 18,350 hit just last week. The rate of positive tests jumped to 6.9% from 6.5% Tuesday, according to state health department data, reaching the highest level since early August.
Hospitalizations, also at a record, climbed 3.4% to 9,365 patients. Newsom said this week that deeper restrictions on residents may be coming if trends fail to improve, warning that intensive-care units may become overwhelmed later this month.
New York Decision
The Supreme Court’s 5-4
The Supreme Court in May
In August, Harvest Rock’s defiance of the shutdown order prompted Pasadena officials to send a letter threatening prosecution.
The case is Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom, 20A94.
(Adds description of California rules in third paragraph)
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