For the second time in less than 90 days, the Supreme Court ruled against coronavirus tyranny in California when it shot down Governor Gavin Newsom’s ban on indoor church services — a ban that is fueling an effort by the state legislature to recall the California dictator.
The first ruling in defense of the First Amendment occurred during Thanksgiving week when, in an unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court granted Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministries injunctive relief and sent the case back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The lower court was instructed to consider the churches’ plea in light of an earlier SCOTUS decision where several New York houses of worship sued to undo Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions. In that case, the court granted an injunction to Catholic churches and Jewish synagogues, saying they were treated unequally in lockdown orders.
Attorneys for the two California churches celebrated the win at the time, saying that “the handwriting is now on the wall” for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions. But apparently, judges sitting on the bench in the lower court don’t know how to read because they chose not to comply with the Supreme Court’s order, thus forcing the plaintiffs to appeal to the Supreme Court a second time.
Following the second appeal, the Supreme Court shot down the California ban on indoor church services in a 6-3 decision. However, don’t be surprised to see it back for a threepeat because the churches’ request for an injunction halting the in-person worship ban was only partially granted, pending appeal.
SCOTUS did block California from enforcing its total ban on in-person worship in Newsom’s Blueprint, Tier 1 restrictions, but it allowed California to impose a 25 percent capacity for houses of worship located in the tier. The court also allowed the governor’s ban on singing and chanting to continue, noting that the singing ban could be addressed later.
In a report on TheCenterSquare.com, we learn that the strong 6-3 ruling still had detractors because it didn’t fully protect the First Amendment.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, in a written opinion, said they would have granted an injunction against Tier 1 overall and against the singing and chanting ban. Their opinion states several times that plaintiffs may present additional evidence of state or county entities discriminating against houses of worship by solely banning them from singing and chanting.
Gorsuch wrote that Newsom’s order and Blueprint exempts the entertainment industry from the ban, allowing singing to occur in the music and television industries. California’s patchwork of orders is confusing, Gorsuch added, arguing that he would hold this fact against the state and enjoin the ban on singing and chanting in houses of worship.
Gorsuch wrote, “… if Hollywood may host a studio audience or film a singing competition while not a single soul may enter California’s churches, synagogues, and mosques, something has gone seriously awry.”
The judges also reprimanded the lower courts. Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito, wrote, “Today’s order should have been needless; the lower courts in these cases should have followed the extensive guidance this Court already gave.”
Gavin Newsom’s dictatorial abuse of power against places of worship during the so-called coronavirus pandemic has been going on from the very beginning. California has had the most severe shutdown restrictions in the U.S. with a total in-person worship ban in place since July 13. And with the exception of 48 days during which in-person worship was allowed at 25 percent capacity but no more than 100 people, the total worship ban had in place for 322 days as of Feb. 5, 2021, when the high court ended it.
Still, the two cases recently ruled on will return to the lower courts, leaving the injunction in place until the cases are corrected by the lower courts or the Supreme Court is forced to address it again.
The threat coronavirus tyranny presents to liberty and the First Amendment — specifically Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion — was addressed by Justice Samuel Alito a few days prior to the Thanksgiving week ruling during a live-streamed keynote address to the 2020 Lawyers’ Convention sponsored by the Federalist Society.
In his address, Alito noted how coronavirus tyranny had “resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” Concerning the threat to freedom of speech, he said:
“One of the great challenges for the Supreme Court going forward will be to protect freedom of speech.
“Although that freedom is falling out of favor in some circles, we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second-tier Constitutional right.
“We should all welcome rational, civil speech on important subjects even if we do not agree with what the speaker has to say.”
Alito was also concerned coronavirus tyrants had “blatantly discriminated against houses of worship” and how they had put religious liberty “in danger of becoming a second-class right.”
“It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.
“Whatever one may think about the COVID restrictions, we surely don’t want them to become a recurring feature after the pandemic has passed.”
Alito also made it clear that no one should “twist” his words because he wasn’t “diminishing the severity of the virus’ threat to public health”, he was merely raising a red flag that free speech and religious liberty should be protected in America.
Dictators like Newsom have been exploiting coronavirus hysteria to destroy liberty and pave the way for a more socialistic, tyrannical government. And even when the Supreme Court shoots them down as they did with the California ban on indoor church services, these tyrants will succeed unless we rise up at the state and local levels of government to take back our liberty.
The assault on our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at the hands of people we elect to protect them has been going on for quite some time, but coronavirus tyranny has given government the perfect “never let a crisis go to waste” opportunity they’ve been looking for to realize victories in their socialist agenda never before imagined — making the end of liberty much closer than we realize.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.