Supreme Court Rejects Church, Refuses to Further Ease Covid Caps

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The U.S. Supreme Court declined a chance to further buttress religious rights during the pandemic, turning away an appeal from a Nevada church that said a federal appeals court didn’t go far enough when it eased the state’s capacity limits on houses of worship.

The case had offered the court’s conservative wing a chance to reinforce a November ruling that blocked strict New York City restrictions as unconstitutionally singling out religious institutions.

A federal appeals court temporarily lifted a 50-person cap that had applied to Nevada houses of worship and said they could hold services at as much as 25% of capacity. The panel also told a trial judge to consider relaxing the limits further to comply with the Supreme Court’s New York ruling.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley a Reno-area church, said churches should be subject to the 50% cap that apply to retail stores.

The case reached the Supreme Court in an unusual procedural state. Calvary Chapel filed its appeal before the appeals court ruled, urging the justices to directly review a trial judge’s ruling. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak never responded to the Supreme Court appeal.

The rebuff marks the second time Calvary Chapel has been rejected at the Supreme Court, which in July voted 5-4 to leave intact the 50-person cap. That order came before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court and strengthened its conservative majority.

The case is Calvary Chapel v. Sisolak, 20-639.

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