(USA Features) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Friday that California cannot limit religious gatherings inside private homes.
In a slim 5-4 ruling, justices found in favor of a group of Santa Clara residents who alleged the restrictions were a violation of the Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments.
“Applicants are likely to succeed on the merits of their free exercise claim; they are irreparably harmed by the loss of free exercise rights ‘for even minimal periods of time’; the State has not shown that ‘public health would be imperiled’ by employing less restrictive measures,” said the unsigned opinion.
The high court’s decision is the fifth time justices have overruled the liberal-leaning Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding COVID-19 restrictions imposed by California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, and majority Democrats.
In February, justices ruled in favor of a worshipper’s application that restrictions on in-person religious services be scaled back.
“It is unsurprising that such litigants are entitled to relief. California’s Blueprint System contains myriad exceptions and accommodations for comparable activities, thus requiring the application of strict scrutiny,” the majority wrote on Friday.
Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett made up the majority. Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by GOP President George W. Bush, sided again with the high court’s liberals, but he did not sign onto a dissent authored by Justice Elena Kagan.