Jul 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Nevada church plea to overturn attendance limit

 church socially distancing
Places of worship have had to figure out protocols that adhere to social distancing and state restrictions. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court rejected a request from a Nevada church to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services.

The big picture: Restrictions on places of worship to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus have become politically divisive. Churches across the U.S. have been challenging state restrictions in court.

  • Chief Justice John Roberts ruled with the court’s four liberal members to make a majority.

The state of play: Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in Nevada argued that the state treated houses of worship more harshly than the state's casinos, restaurants and amusement parks.

  • Capacity in those businesses was cut by 50% based on fire-code capacities, unlike congregations that had to adhere to a 50-person limit.

The other side: “A public health emergency does not give governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote.

Flashback: The court considered a similar objection from a California church in May, but also rejected the case by the same 5-to-4 vote.

Go deeper: God and COVID-19

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