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South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom

Late last night (Feb. 5th) the U.S. Supreme Court, in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, enjoined some of California strongman Gavin Newsom’s restrictions on in-person religious services. As described by Josh Blackman:

Here is the bottom line: six Justices enjoined California’s complete prohibition on indoor worship in so-called Tier 1 zones. Beyond that, the conservatives splintered sharply.

Here’s the concluding paragraph of Justice Neil Gorsuch’s accompanying Statement (joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and apparently mostly agreeable also to Justice Amy Barrett):

No doubt, California will argue on remand, as it has before, that its prohibitions are merely temporary because vaccinations are underway. But the State’s “temporary” ban on indoor worship has been in place since August 2020, and applied routinely since March. California no longer asks its movie studios, malls, and manicurists to wait. And one could be forgiven for doubting its asserted timeline. Government actors have been moving the goalposts on pandemic-related sacrifices for months, adopting new benchmarks that always seem to put restoration of liberty just around the corner. As this crisis enters its second year— and hovers over a second Lent, a second Passover, and a second Ramadan—it is too late for the State to defend extreme measures with claims of temporary exigency, if it ever could. Drafting narrowly tailored regulations can be difficult. But if Hollywood may host a studio audience or film a singing competition while not a single soul may enter California’s churches, synagogues, and mosques, something has gone seriously awry.