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US Supreme Court rules against Dayton church on attendance cap

Tom Alexander holds a cross as he prays prior to rulings outside the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 8, 2020.  T.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Tom Alexander holds a cross as he prays prior to rulings outside the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 8, 2020. T.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)(Patrick Semansky | AP)
Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 8:10 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected a Lyon County church’s effort to block state COVID-19 rules from capping church attendance at 50.

The court voted 5-4 against injunctive relief for Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the four more liberal justices.

The five justices who turned back the church’s attempt to block Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order, aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, did not elaborate on their decision.

The church filed suit May 22 against Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Lyon County Sheriff Frank Hunewill charging the cap on religious gatherings violated its First Amendment rights for freedom of religion.

The church said it was waiting for Sisolak to allow churches to reopen. Sisolak allowed businesses to reopen at 50 percent capacity, while churches were capped at 50 people.

“But that trust has been broken,” the lawsuit charged. “Instead of prioritizing religious freedom, the Governor has moved ‘non-essential’ secular businesses and activities 14 to the front of the line and pushed churches towards the back.”

Dissenting justices published opinions.

“The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges,” Justice Neil Goruch wrote. “But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.”

“A public health emergency does not give governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote. “As more medical and scientific evidence becomes available, and as States have time to craft policies in light of that evidence, courts should expect policies that more carefully ac-count for constitutional rights.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh called Nevada’s restrictions a violation of religious freedom.

“Nevada’s 50-person attendance cap on religious worship services puts praying at churches, synagogues, temples and mosques on worse footing than eating at restaurants, drinking at bars, gambling at casinos or biking at gyms,” Kavanaugh wrote. “In other words, Nevada is discriminating against religion.”

In supporting the restriction, the state noted churches were being treated the same as other mass gatherings like movie theaters and concerts.

Neither Calvary Chapel nor its lawyer could be reached for comment.

Copyright 2020 KOLO. All rights reserved.

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