Recently, a petition was filed by the South Bay Pentecostal Church, to pass a temporary injunction on the restrictions imposed by the Governor of California. The restrictions were imposed as a control measure in the time of COVID19, with respect to number of attendees at the place of worship.
The United States Supreme Court has rejected that petition. The court held that the restrictions imposed by the Governor are consistent with Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
The executive order passed by the Governor, said that the number of people to attend such places should not be more than 25% of the building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees.
It was observed by the court that the decision as to when the lockdown will be lifted is a dynamic one. The Officials of the state are responsible to ensure health and safety of its public. And therefore their decision to combat any medical or scientific uncertainties, must be respected. Such decision cannot be questioned by an “unelected federal judiciary”, which lack the competence, background and expertise to evaluate public health.
The Order of the court came with the majority of 5:4. The majority dismissed the petition to stay the restrictions imposed by the Governor. The judges holding the dissenting opinion held that these safety guidelines are discriminatory on the ground of places of worship, which comes under comparable secular business, and therefore, it violated the First Amendment. They added that restrictions cannot be imposed upon one group and the group is left, without any reasonability.
The dissent opinions added that the State has not given the reason to justify as to why any person is allowed to go to grocery shopping without any restriction, but to a pew? That, the Church has agreed to abide by the Governor’s rules that apply to comparable secular business. And therefore the restrictions are discriminating against religion.
The Supreme Court passed the Order in favor of the Governor’s restrictions imposed. And said that the notion which states that Government’s limitations are unconstitutional without any dispute, is quite improbable.