Great Britain

Supreme Court sides with church challenge to California lockdown as governor orders new crackdown

The US Supreme Court sided with a church fighting California's Covid ban on religious services just hours before governor Gavin Newsom announced a new state-wide stay-at-home order.

Justices vacated a lower court ruling against Harvest Rock Church, which challenged California’s pandemic restrictions as unconstitutional religious discrimination.

In the ruling with no dissents, justices threw the case back to the US District Court of Appeals with instructions to remand "for further consideration in light of Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo".

In its 5-4 ruling on 25 November, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the catholic church and the Jewish group Agudath Israel of America and issued an injunction against New York governor Andrew Cuomo's restrictions limiting prayer services to between 10 to 25 people.

They said the restrictions "single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment" given other businesses could operate without the same restrictions.

The religious organizations argued the restrictions were more restrictive against houses of worship than secular establishments, and the court agreed it was a violation of their 1st Amendment rights of the free expression of religion.  

Harvest Rock is similarly arguing that California's restrictions are discriminatory because grocery stores, retailers, and warehouses could remain open and allow large gatherings while places of worship were closed.

Hours after the order, Mr Newsom ordered a three week stay-at-home that he expects to begin going into effect within days once hospitals' intensive care unit capacity drops below 15 per cent.

Harvest Rock first sued in July after Mr Newsom's pandemic lockdowns tightened to combat a summer surge in Covid-19 cases.

Similar restrictions were placed on "comparable business" that draw large crowds like museums, movie theatres and restaurants  

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