The U.S. Supreme Court has engaged again in religiously preferential conduct toward churches resisting Covid-19 health orders, much to the FFRF’s chagrin.
In an unsigned order issued on Feb. 27, the high court blocked local health regulations seeking to slow the spread of Covid-19 via indoor worship services. A group of churches suing Santa Clara County, Calif., appealed to the Supreme Court after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals left in place limits on indoor worship. The court’s brief order simply refers to one of its prior decisions: “This outcome is clearly dictated by this court’s decision in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom.” Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
The county had argued that its regulations, which temporarily limited “all indoor gatherings of all kinds,” are neutral and did not single out churches. The county also filed a letter with the court indicating that decreasing rates of Covid-19 would lead to allowing indoor worship gatherings as early as Wednesday, March 3. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court went ahead with its order.
Covid-19 cases have topped 114 million globally, with more than 2.53 million deaths.
“Given the fact that the United States is the worst-hit country with the highest number of cases and deaths, it’s appalling that the Supreme Court has gone out of its way to favor churches,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Churches and religious gatherings have figured highly as super-spreaders. This decision is not based on the science, but on privileging churches.”
Other California churches that challenged health orders have flaunted their disregard for public health — and have been coddled by the highest court in the land. Harvest Rock Church was granted an injunction by the Supreme Court on Feb. 5. Its most recent Sunday service featured 30 straight seconds of shouting as part of a 40-minute sing-along.
“This reckless behavior is exactly why churches should have to follow the same rules as other gatherings,” adds Gaylor.
Epidemiologists have warned about extended worship gatherings that involve singing. Kagan had previously cited the state of California’s expert witness, who reported that there is an increased risk of community spread where churches have lengthy gatherings that involve singing or chanting.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court continues to favor churches over science.