The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with a Colorado church challenging COVID-19 restrictions on capacity limits for services.
High Plains Harvest Church brought the legal battle to the high court, asking for an injunction to halt the state’s requirement of 50 people or less for services while not enforcing the same capacity limits on secular businesses.
The court filing noted protests with massive amounts of people were permitted under the First Amendment, but the state is not providing the same constitutional right for churches.
A lower court had sided with Colorado, upholding the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The justices, though, granted the injunctive relief to the church Tuesday, citing an earlier case out of New York where the high court ruled in favor of the Catholic Church, which protested Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 orders directed at houses of worship.
The three Democratic appointees dissented from the high court’s order.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, saying the state had lifted restrictions after the Supreme Court’s move in the New York case, so the challenge should have been dismissed as moot.
“Absent our issuing different guidance, there is no reason to think Colorado will reverse course — and so no reason to think Harvest Church will again face capacity limits,” Justice Kagan wrote.
The high court, also on Tuesday, struck a blow to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s restrictions, limiting houses of worship to 25% capacity. The order granted an injunction in a challenge brought by Jewish synagogue and Christian church leaders.
The justices granted an injunction last month against New York’s restrictions, which limited church service capacity at 10 to 25 people depending on the area of the state where the House of Worship was located.
The restriction had no regard for the size of the building and did not place the same requirements on secular businesses.
“Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services,” the court’s order read in that dispute.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a Bush-appointee, joined the court’s three Democratic appointees in the New York challenge, dissenting from striking down Mr. Cuomo’s order.
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