Supreme Court Again Allows Indoor Church Services, Lifts Ban


The U.S. Supreme Court said a California county must let five churches hold indoor services, adding to a line of orders that have curbed the power of government officials as they battle the spread of the coronavirus.

The latest high court action follows a Feb. 6 order that let indoor worship services resume in most of California at 25% capacity.

The court’s unsigned one-paragraph order said the outcome “is clearly dictated” by the earlier decision. The three liberal justices -- Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor -- dissented.

Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose, said its ban remained valid because it was part of a broader prohibition on indoor gatherings at both religious and secular establishments. The county’s policy let facilities operate at 20% capacity for purposes other than gatherings.

Five suing churches said the county can’t constitutionally let churches operate at 20% capacity but then bar those people from worshiping together.

The Supreme Court acted even though the county said in a Feb. 25 letter that it was planning to ease the restrictions next week as long as Covid rates there continue to decline.

The case is Gateway City Church v. Newsom, 20A138.

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