The Supreme Court Reveals Its Doubts About Religious Freedom, by David Mills

Saint of the Day for June 2: St. Marcellinus and Peter (d. 304)
June 2, 2020
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June 2, 2020

iStockPhoto/venemama and Amy Sparwasser The front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, over the motto on the front of the Supreme Court Building

By David Mills is a senior editor of The Stream, June 2, 2020

David Mills is a senior editor of The Stream. After teaching writing in a seminary, he has been editor of Touchstone and the executive editor of First Things. …

It was a quick decision not to overrule state law and lower courts, produced under the gun. A bare 5 to 4 majority supported the state against the church. Not exactly a big deal for religious freedom, but it could give us a sign of a coming big deal.

On Friday, the Supreme Court refused to overrule California’s limits on religious services. Like other gatherings of their sort, they could fill at most 25% of their occupancy limit. Even then the law limited them to 100 people at a time.  The case is South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, Governor of California. You can read the majority and minority opinions here. They’re not long. Just five pages, and clearly written too.

As the Alliance Defending Freedom noted, the decision was “procedural in nature, narrow in scope. The court simply chose not to grant temporary relief on an emergency motion.” That’s true, but not exactly the point. All the justices, pro and con, believe the law must treat churches fairly. That’s the problem.  …

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