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Supreme Court Again Allows Indoor Church Services, Lifts Ban (1)

Feb. 27, 2021, 1:39 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court said a California county must let five churches hold indoor services, adding to a line of orders that have curbed the power of government officials as they battle the spread of the coronavirus.

The latest high court action follows a Feb. 6 order that let indoor worship services resume in most of California at 25% capacity.

The court’s unsigned one-paragraph order said the outcome “is clearly dictated” by the earlier decision. The three liberal justices -- Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor -- dissented.

Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose, said its ban remained valid because it was part of a broader prohibition on indoor gatherings at both religious and secular establishments. The county’s policy let facilities operate at 20% capacity for purposes other than gatherings.

Five suing churches said the county can’t constitutionally let churches operate at 20% capacity but then bar those people from worshiping together.

The Supreme Court acted even though the county said in a Feb. 25 letter that it was planning to ease the restrictions next week as long as Covid rates there continue to decline.

The case is Gateway City Church v. Newsom, 20A138.

(Updates with explanation from court in third paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

Elizabeth Wasserman, Joe Schneider

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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