Supreme Court grants temporary win to California churches amid battle over indoor worship

A year’s worth of coronavirus-related lockdowns — some much stricter than others — seemed to unfairly target certain entities, like small businesses that were deemed “non-essential” and, perhaps most egregiously, churches.

But according to Fox News, worshipers in the state of California were handed a massive win this week when the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a group of churches that had filed suit over strict pandemic-related lockdowns that blocked their members from attending indoor services. 

What happened?

While church leaders awaited the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ final decision on the issue, which stemmed from a lawsuit filed last month against Santa Clara County after the county refused to lift the ban on indoor services, they took matters right to the top.

“The Ninth Circuit’s failure to grant relief was erroneous,” read an order from the SCOTUS granting a temporary injunction, according to Fox. “This outcome is clearly dictated by this Court’s decision in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom.”

Santa Clara County had refused to follow an earlier Supreme Court ruling that clearly stated Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strict church lockdowns were a violation of worshipers’ First Amendment rights.

Luckily, the latest SCOTUS decision will block the county from continuing to enforce the ban on indoor services until the 9th Circuit Court issues a final ruling. Depending on what that ruling is, the matter could theoretically make its way back to the high court for a final say.

Not surprisingly, all three liberal SCOTUS justices dissented on the latest decision, Fox noted.

“Lacked scientific evidence”

Two weeks ago, when the lawsuit was first filed against the county, a number of churches argued not only that Santa Clara County unfairly targeted the First Amendment rights of those who wanted to attend indoor services, but also that the county also lacked the scientific justification to do so.

Originally, the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the churches, but within a matter of 48 hours, the court reversed its decision, according to The Mercury News.

“Many in our community are eager to gather indoors together, including for indoor worship, but it is vitally important that we continue to keep our community safe and do everything we can bring the pandemic under control,” county counsel James R. Williams said in a statement at the time.

Before the most recent SCOTUS ruling in favor of providing relief for the churches involved in the lawsuit, Santa Clara County was the only one out of California’s 58 counties to continue to ban indoor worship.

Only time will tell how the 9th Circuit Court finally rules on the matter, but with the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out to millions and cases on the decline, it’s certainly time to side with the Constitution and let people who want to worship in-person exercise their First Amendment right to do so.

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