Supreme Court Lets California Return to Church Indoors

"Justices lift the total ban on indoor worship, though capacity limits and singing restrictions remain." - C. Today

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JDen's picture

The Christianty Today article sounds wonderful from a religious liberty standpoint, but the actual sources from SCOTUS (here and here) only specifically mention that the "applicants" (i.e. the churches that brought the cases) are granted injunctive relief, and that relief is temporary, depending on the Court's future actions.

I found this explanation by legal expert Dan Easton to be helpful. Easton notes that "technically" this order only applies to the "applicants" but he deems it unlikely that the State of California will enforce the ban on indoor services.

Legal research is not my forte. If there are any legal scholars out there who can inform my understanding, I'd greatly appreciate it.

J. Baillet's picture

The Supreme Court ruling is on an application for injunctive relief until the case on its final merits can be presented. This generally involves a weighing of the harm to the applicants from not granting injunctive relief versus the harm to other interested parties from granting relief, taking into account the likelihood that the applicants will ultimately prevail on the merits and any public policy considerations. Technically, this decision only applies to the applicants but as a practical matter it sets the current limits of what the State of California can do across the board until a final decision is rendered. The opinions do give a hint at how each Justice will vote when the case is fully presented and what the applicants need to show on the merits if they are to gain greater protections in the final decision, such as demonstrating that the ban on singing is not applied in other similar circumstances, just on those singing in church.


JDen's picture

Thanks for your reply, J. Baillet. On Saturday evening, the State of California revised the guidelines for houses of worship. The most restrictive tier now allows for indoor gathering at 25% of capacity. The full guidance is in the process of being updated, so it is possible that the State may make some further changes. But for now, there is no real difference for churches between the most restrictive and second-most restrictive tiers in California. In short, churches can once again legally meet indoors in California!