Saturday, 27 February 2021

Covidiot News - SCOTUS Gives the Go-Ahead for California's Religious Super-Spreaders

US Supreme Court, Washington DC
Supreme Court Again Allows Indoor Church Services, Lifts Ban - Bloomberg

Showing their partisan divide, with Trump's conservative appointees siding with them, the US Supreme Court has granted California's churches the right to obstruct efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic and hold Covid super-spreader events.

This ruling follows a string of similar rulings limiting the powers of government to regulate gatherings in places of worship in the same way that it regulates gatherings in shops, shopping malls, sports arenas and other public spaces.

On February 5th, SCOTUS ordered California to allow indoor services in places of worship at 25% capacity, but allowed the state to ban singing and chanting. The three liberal-leaning justices, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented. This followed the pattern established when the conservative majority on SCOTUS ordered New York to remove limits on numbers attending places of worship in areas where the Covid numbers were high.

This latest ruling removes even those restrictions.

SCOTUS unsigned one-paragraph order.

The three Liberl-leaning Justices, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, again dissented.
Roman Catholic bishop of San Jose, Oscar Cantú
"I am pleased with last night’s Supreme Court Decision affirming the fundamental right to indoor worship in the United States."
The three liberal-leaning judges dissented from the Feb 5th ruling, arguing:
Justices of this court are not scientists, nor do we know much about public health policy. Yet today the court displaces the judgments of experts about how to respond to a raging pandemic.
Their dissent from the present ruling was based on the same argument.

Under regulations imposed in July 2020, California governor, Gavin Newsom, imposed a ban on indoor religious services - as well as indoor dining, movie screenings and other gatherings - in counties designated as “tier 1” because of high Covid numbers. All but four of California’s 58 counties, covering more than 99% of its population, were “tier 1” as of Feb. 2nd.

The appeal to the Supreme Court was supported by the Roman Catholic bishop of San Jose, Oscar Cantú.

At the time of the Feb 5th ruling Cantú had issued a statement saying:
I am pleased with last night’s Supreme Court Decision affirming the fundamental right to indoor worship in the United States. Catholic Churches have been worshipping indoors across our country for many months, and there has been minimal COVID transmission at their religious services due to parishes following stringent health and safety protocols pursuant to State and County guidelines.
The SCOTUS judgment has the effect of granting places of worship exemptions from the provisions of those regulations.

What Bishop Cantú appears to have overlooked is the right of Americas, even non-Catholic Americans, to live in a healthy and safe environment, free from the lethal viruses his and his congregation's could well be spreading around the community after attending one of their weekly super-spreader events. But, as Christians and those of other faiths have shown time and again during this pandemic emergency, they don't regard the interests of other people as having any importance above their desire to gather together to shout down their doubts and try to impress their neighbours with their godliness.

As California State President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church, Rachel Laser, put it:
It is alarming that this Supreme Court continues to ignore scientists and public health experts – not to mention our Constitution – in order to grant religious privilege to a select few at the expense of the health and safety of everyone else. Religious freedom is meant to be a shield that protects all of us, not a sword used to harm others. Public health orders that restrict large gatherings, secular and religious alike, are not an attack on religious freedom. They are temporary, common-sense measures intended to limit the spread of a deadly disease until it is again safe for people to gather together in large, indoor groups. We sympathize with the faith communities yearning to come together to worship – it’s been a challenging year. The more we heed the advice of public health experts now, the sooner the virus will be under control and we will all be able to resume our traditions – both religious and secular.

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