The U.S. Supreme Court has again upheld the fundamental right of citizens to congregate in houses of worship despite local and state ordinances restricting such in-person gatherings due to the ongoing pandemic.
In its latest majority decision on the subject, the nation’s highest court accepted a challenge to Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s order limiting the size of religious gatherings and mandating face masks in church, kicking the case to a lower court along with an order to reconsider, as Breitbart reported.
SCOTUS issues one-page order
At issue in the case were complaints from a Catholic church and Jewish synagogue in the state against restrictions imposed by the governor.
As Breitbart noted, Murphy had limited the capacity in houses of worship to 25% and issued a strict mandate requiring face masks be worn at all times. The same restrictions, plaintiffs argued, were not similarly imposed on secular businesses and gatherings.
In its one-page, unsigned order, the Supreme Court noted that it had accepted the appeal and granted a requested application for injunctive relief to the plaintiffs.
The high court additionally vacated the lower district court’s October ruling upholding Murphy’s restrictions, remanding the case back to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals with the instructions that it is to be further passed down to the district court.
That lower court is then to be ordered to reconsider the merits of the case in light of a ruling last month in which the Supreme Court struck down disparate restrictions against churches in New York.
The Thomas More Society, which represented the reverend and rabbi behind the challenge, released a statement heralding the court’s decision as an important victory.
“This is one of dozens of lawsuits across the country pitting houses of worship, their leaders, and congregants against gubernatorial abuse of power,” attorney Christopher Ferrara said.
He went on to declare that the Supreme Court has proven it “is truly interested in ensuring churches get equal treatment with secular activities.”
As a result of Murphy’s restrictions, Ferrara concluded that “Costco, Walmart, factories, schools, and other venues all” had gotten “better treatment” than houses of worship.
Liberty Counsel, which represented churches in a similar California case, issued its own statement in the wake of this week’s decisions. Founder and Chairman Mat Stover said: “The impact of the Supreme Court rulings is a welcome relief. Tyrannical governors must let the captives go free. Some governors have become power hungry and now the courts are agreeing that it’s past time to end these restrictions on places of worship.”