Supreme Court Rejects Nevada Church’s Challenge to Covid19 Attendance Limits

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The U.S. Supreme Court denied a challenge from a Nevada church to that state’s attendance limit on places of worship due to Covid19.

The attendance limit issued by the state allows places of business, including casinos, restaurants and movie theaters, to allow patrons inside at up to 50% capacity. The limit applies to all public venues, that is, except places of worship.

Places of worship are allowed only an attendance capacity of 50 persons.

The Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, a rural Nevada church, requested permission to hold services for 90 people, which is roughly 50% of its building’s fire-code capacity. It also pledged several other safety measures, including cutting the length of services in half, requiring six feet of separation between families seated in the pews and allowing enough time between services for the church to be sanitized.

The Supreme Court ruled against Calvary Chapel by a vote of 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the liberal justices. The court’s brief order was unsigned and gave no reasons explaining its ruling.

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh issued dissenting opinions.

“In my view, Nevada’s discrimination against religious services violates the Constitution,” Justice Kavanaugh’s wrote. “To be clear, a State’s closing or reopening plan may subject religious organizations to the same limits as secular organizations. And in light of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, those limits may be very strict.

“But a State may not impose strict limits on places of worship and looser limits on restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms, at least without sufficient justification for the differential treatment of religion,” it added.

Justice Gorsuch’s dissent was much more pithy: “There is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel”

Photo by Phil Roeder 

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