Supreme Court Strikes Down Church Restrictions

Justice Samuel Alito

“The Supreme Court sided with a rural Colorado church Tuesday that challenged the state Democrat governor’s COVID rules restricting building capacity in some parts of the state. The 6-3 decision overturned lower court rulings that had upheld Gov. Jared Polis’s church gathering limits to a maximum of 25 percent or 50 people, whichever is fewer, and ordered lower courts to re-examine the case. ‘Today in Colorado it is perfectly legal for hundreds of shoppers to pack themselves cheek by jowl into a Lowes or other big box store or patronize any one of the thousands of other retail establishments that are not subject to draconian numerical limits,’ church attorney Barry Arrington told National Review. The case was brought by the High Plains Harvest Church north of Denver, arguing the state was unlawfully targeting religious institutions by imposing harsher restrictions on churches than shopping centers. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court also handed down its ruling on a New Jersey case brought by a Catholic priest and a rabbi. This ruling overturned limits on religious gatherings in houses of worship, wiping out executive rule-favoring opinions in the lower courts. The cases upholding religious liberty come on the heels of rare public remarks by Justice Samuel Alito criticizing coronavirus lockdowns this year as placing ‘previously unimaginable’ restrictions on American freedom. ‘We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020,’ Alito said in a virtual speech to The Federalist Society. ‘The COVID crisis has served as sort of a constitutional stress test.’” PJMedia added, “This would appear to open the door to churches nationwide to decide their own COVID policies. The arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the court has proven to be a godsend to religious liberty” (“Supreme Court,” PJMedia, Dec. 15, 2020).

“Supreme Court Slaps Down,” The Federalist, Dec. 15, 2020