Former President Donald Trump’s legacy is sure to be tied to the three U.S. Supreme Court justices he appointed, cementing the bench’s clear conservative majority.
Nevertheless, the court is facing some criticism from the right this week after Justice Neil Gorsuch decided not to hear a case brought by two Colorado churches against the state’s power to enforce certain COVID-19 restrictions.
Gorsuch delivers unsigned order
Although Colorado mandates and rules have been largely relaxed in recent weeks, the churches assert that laws passed during the pandemic continue to pose a future threat to religious freedom.
The complaint hinges on the Colorado Disaster Emergency Act, which was enacted to enforce lockdowns and restrictions on businesses, venues, and houses of worship.
Denver Bible Church and Community Baptist Church, however, noted that the law is not limited to COVID-19 and could lead to restrictions in response to natural disasters.
Gorsuch, who handles emergency requests in the region that includes Colorado, rejected the case on Tuesday in an unsigned order. He declined to send it to the full court, which is common practice for controversial issues.
His ruling came without an explanation, prompting speculation among those who view Gorsuch as a strong proponent of religious liberty.
“A specific exemption for religious practice”
Colorado reportedly asked the Supreme Court to reject the case, which had been brought to the high court last month. Essentially, the state argued that the controversy has been resolved since most COVID-19 restrictions had been repealed.
State officials also noted that most pandemic-related orders had been downgraded to guidelines by mid-May, explaining that even in regard to ongoing mask mandates, “a specific exemption for religious practice permits their temporary removal to participate in religious services.”
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis warned last month that stripping Colorado’s emergency powers would cause a “severe hardship” in response to future emergencies.
“The Colorado Disaster Act creates the legal mechanism for the state to respond to a broad range of disaster-emergencies, such as wildfires, floods, earthquakes, drought, and infestation,” he stated. “Invalidating the Act would cause severe hardship to the state.”
Although Gorsuch did not find this case worthy of the court’s time, justices have weighed in on the side of religious liberty throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of Americans are now hoping that the nation’s highest court maintains that track record in the future.